Influence of partner behaviour on overspecification

AbstractSpeakers often overspecify by using colour adjectives redundantly in referential communication. We investigated whether this tendency to overspecify is influenced by a partner’s linguistic behaviour, and whether the effect is enhanced by lexical repetition and semantic relatedness. We used a director-matcher task in which speakers interacted with either a consistently overspecific or a consistently optimal partner. Our results show that partner behaviour influences overspecification. An analysis over time indicates that speakers tended to overspecify at the outset, but reduced this behaviour over interaction with an optimal partner much more than with an overspecific partner. This may suggest that overspecification (at least with colour modifiers) is the “default” behaviour, with speakers adapting to optimality in a partner’s linguistic behaviour.

Return to previous page