Speech Act Recognition in Conversation: Experimental Evidence


Recognizing the speech acts in our interlocutors’ utterances is a crucial prerequisite for conversation. However, it is not a trivial task given that the form and content of utterances is frequently underspecified for this level of meaning. In the present study we investigate participants’ competence in categorizing speech acts in such action-underspecific sentences and explore the time-course of speech act inferencing using a self-paced reading paradigm. The results demonstrate that participants are able to categorize the speech acts with very high accuracy, based on limited context and without any prosodic information. Furthermore, the results show that the exact same sentence is processed differently depending on the speech act it performs, with reading times starting to differ already at the first word. These results indicate that participants are very good at “getting” the speech acts, opening up a new arena for experimental research on action recognition in conversation.

Back to Table of Contents