Traditional mechanistic accounts of language processing derive almost entirely from the study of monologue. Yet, the most natural and basic form of language use is dialogue. As a result, these accounts may only offer limited theories of the mechanisms that underlie language processing in general. We propose a mechanistic account of dialogue, the interactive alignment account, and use it to derive a number of predictions about basic language processes. The account assumes that, in dialogue, the linguistic representations employed by the (...) interlocutors become aligned at many levels, as a result of a largely automatic process. This process greatly simplifies production and comprehension in dialogue. After considering the evidence for the interactive alignment model, we concentrate on three aspects of processing that follow from it. It makes use of a simple interactive inference mechanism, enables the development of local dialogue routines that greatly simplify language processing, and explains the origins of self-monitoring in production. We consider the need for a grammatical framework that is designed to deal with language in dialogue rather than monologue, and discuss a range of implications of the account. Key Words: common ground; dialogue; dialogue routines; language comprehension; language production; monitoring; perception-behavior link. (shrink)
How might a human communication system be bootstrapped in the absence of conventional language? We argue that motivated signs play an important role (i.e., signs that are linked to meaning by structural resemblance or by natural association). An experimental study is then reported in which participants try to communicate a range of pre-specified items to a partner using repeated non-linguistic vocalization, repeated gesture, or repeated non-linguistic vocalization plus gesture (but without using their existing language system). Gesture proved more effective (measured (...) by communication success) and more efficient (measured by the time taken to communicate) than non-linguistic vocalization across a range of item categories (emotion, object, and action). Combining gesture and vocalization did not improve performance beyond gesture alone. We experimentally demonstrate that gesture is a more effective means of bootstrapping a human communication system. We argue that gesture outperforms non-linguistic vocalization because it lends itself more naturally to the production of motivated signs. (shrink)
Our target article proposed that language production and comprehension are interwoven, with speakers making predictions of their own utterances and comprehenders making predictions of other people's utterances at different linguistic levels. Here, we respond to comments about such issues as cognitive architecture and its neural basis, learning and development, monitoring, the nature of forward models, communicative intentions, and dialogue.
The interactive-alignment model of dialogue provides an account of dialogue at the level of explanation normally associated with cognitive psychology. We develop our claim that interlocutors align their mental models via priming at many levels of linguistic representation, explicate our notion of automaticity, defend the minimal role of “other modeling,” and discuss the relationship between monologue and dialogue. The account can be applied to social and developmental psychology, and would benefit from computational modeling.
Human cognition and behavior are dominated by symbol use. This paper examines the social learning strategies that give rise to symbolic communication. Experiment 1 contrasts an individual-level account, based on observational learning and cognitive bias, with an inter-individual account, based on social coordinative learning. Participants played a referential communication game in which they tried to communicate a range of recurring meanings to a partner by drawing, but without using their conventional language. Individual-level learning, via observation and cognitive bias, was sufficient (...) to produce signs that became increasingly effective, efficient, and shared over games. However, breaking a referential precedent eliminated these benefits. The most effective, most efficient, and most shared signs arose when participants could directly interact with their partner, indicating that social coordinative learning is important to the creation of shared symbols. Experiment 2 investigated the contribution of two distinct aspects of social interaction: behavior alignment and concurrent partner feedback. Each played a complementary role in the creation of shared symbols: Behavior alignment primarily drove communication effectiveness, and partner feedback primarily drove the efficiency of the evolved signs. In conclusion, inter-individual social coordinative learning is important to the evolution of effective, efficient, and shared symbols. (shrink)
This paper outlines an argument that the meaning of spatial terms depends critically upon our mental models of space. We argue that such models capture the functional geometry of spatial scenes to represent various control relations between the objects in the scene. The discussion centres around two analyses. First, an analysis of the spatial descriptions taken from task oriented dialogue, which seem to reflect a number of distinct mental models of the same visual scene, and secondly an analysis of simple (...) English spatial prepositions. We argue that these prepositions express control relations rather than simple spatial relations and depend for their interpretation on the model of space assumed by speaker and listener. This analysis suggests that mental models whould be seen as interfaces between the language and the world of discourse rather than simply surrogates for that world. (shrink)
Foundations of Language sets out to reconcile generative accounts of language structure with psychological accounts of language processing. We argue that Jackendoff's “parallel architecture” is a particularly appropriate linguistic framework for the interactive alignment account of dialogue processing. It offers a helpful definition of linguistic levels of representation, it gives an interesting account of routine expressions, and it supports radical incrementality in processing.
The target article says surprisingly little about the possible role of shared circuits in language and communication. This commentary considers how they might contribute to linguistic communication, particularly during dialogue. We argue that shared circuits are used to promote alignment between linguistic representations at many levels and to support production-based emulation of linguistic input during comprehension.