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Why we need to investigate casual speech to truly understand language production, processing and the mental lexicon

Tucker, B., & Ernestus, M. (2016). Why we need to investigate casual speech to truly understand language production, processing and the mental lexicon. The Mental Lexicon, 11(3), 375-400. doi:10.1075/ml.11.3.03tuc.
The majority of studies addressing psycholinguistic questions focus on speech produced and processed in a careful, laboratory speech style. This ‘careful’ speech is very different from the speech that listeners encounter in casual conversations. This article argues that research on casual speech is necessary to show the validity of conclusions based on careful speech. Moreover, research on casual speech produces new insights and questions on the processes underlying communication and on the mental lexicon that cannot be revealed by research using careful speech. This article first places research on casual speech in its historic perspective. It then provides many examples of how casual speech differs from careful speech and shows that these differences may have important implications for psycholinguistic theories. Subsequently, the article discusses the challenges that research on casual speech faces, which stem from the high variability of this speech style, its necessary casual context, and that casual speech is connected speech. We also present opportunities for research on casual speech, mostly in the form of new experimental methods that facilitate research on connected speech. However, real progress can only be made if these new methods are combined with advanced (still to be developed) statistical techniques.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

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