Tracking Lexical and Syntactic Alignment in Conversation


As much empirical work attests, people have a reliable tendency to match their conversational partner's body movements, speech style, and patterns of language use -- amongst other things. A speci c version of this tendency, Structural priming, which occurs when prior exposure to a particular linguistic structure facilitates one's subsequent processing of the same structure, has gained widespread acceptance. Pickering and Garrod (2004) propose that cross-person structural priming is a basic mechanism of conversational coordination -- part of an automatic, resource-free alignment mechanism that is the basis for all successful human interaction. We present evidence to the contrary from two analyses of a corpus of ordinary conversation. The rst suggests that the level of structural (syntactic) matching is no different from chance, and the second that the observed statistical correlation between prime form and target form may be entirely associated with repetition of lexical form.

Back to Table of Contents