Speaker-specific adaptation to variable use of uncertainty expressions

AbstractSpeakers exhibit variability in their choice between uncertainty expressions such as might and probably. Recent work has found that listeners cope with such variability by updating their expectations about how a specific speaker uses uncertainty expressions when interacting with a single speaker. However, it is still unclear to what extent listeners form speaker-specific expectations for multiple speakers and to what extent listeners are adapting to a situation independent of the speakers. Here, we take a first step towards answering these questions. In Experiment 1, listeners formed speaker-specific expectations after being exposed to two speakers whose use of uncertainty expressions differed. In Experiment 2, listeners who were exposed to two speakers with identical use of uncertainty expressions formed considerably stronger expectations than in Experiment 1. This suggests that listeners form both speaker-specific and situation-specific expectations. We discuss the implications of these results for theories of adaptation.

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