Martin, A. E. (2016). Retrieval cues in language comprehension: Interference effects in monologue but not dialogue. Poster presented at the Eighth Annual Meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language (SNL 2016), London.
Language production and comprehension require us to integrate incoming linguistic representations with past input, often across intervening words and phrases (Miller & Chomsky, 1963). In recent years, the cue-based retrieval framework has amassed evidence that interference is the main determinant of processing difficulty during long-distance dependency resolution (Lewis et al., 2006; Lewis & Vasishth, 2005; McElree et al., 2003; McElree, 2006; Van Dyke & McElree, 2006, 2011). Yet, little is known about the representations that function of cues in language processing. Furthermore, most of the aforementioned data comes from experiments on silent reading, a form of monologue. But, the computational challenge of dependency resolution is actually most potent in dialogue, where representations are often omitted, compressed, reduced, or elided, and where production and comprehension must occur dynamically between two brains. Previous event-related brain potential (ERP) studies of ellipsis in silent reading have shown interference effects from different types of relevant linguistic representations (Martin et al., 2012, 2014). The current study presents ERP data from a dialogue-overhearing paradigm where the distance between antecedent and ellipsis site was manipulated. Thirty-six native speakers of British English listened to 120 spoken discourses that were spoken either by one speaker (Monologue) or split over two speakers (Dialogue). The second factor, the recency of the antecedent compared to the ellipsis site (Antecedent: Recent, Distant), yielded a 2x2 Dialogue x Recency design: Dialogue, Recent antecedent A: After reading the exposé on the MP, Jane filed a complaint. B: I don’t remember about what_. Perhaps about job shortages. Dialogue, Distant antecedent A: Jane filed a complaint after reading the exposé on the MP. B: I don’t remember about what_. Perhaps about job shortages. Monologue, Recent antecedent A: After reading the exposé on the MP, Jane filed a complaint. A: I don’t remember about what_. Perhaps about job shortages. Monologue, Distant Antecedent A: Jane filed a complaint after reading the exposé on the MP. A: I don’t remember about what_. Perhaps about job shortages. All stimuli were grammatical, and listeners answered a comprehension question on 25% of trials. A Dialogue x Recency interaction was observed on a frontal late, positive-going component that was maximal between 800-1000msec, starting ~400msec post-CW onset. The interaction was driven by the reliable difference between the Monologue Distant condition and the Monologue Recent condition, whereby the former was more positive compared to the latter. This interaction pattern suggests that interference effects can be ameliorated by speaker-related cues in dialogue listening. That suggests, minimally, that interference patterns in ellipsis resolution differ as a function of speaker information. If speaker-related cues are relevant during linguistic dependency resolution, then retrieval cues must be composite in nature, containing both speaker information and grammatical information. Such an architecture would mean that a wider range of information types might interact incrementally during in online language comprehension ‘in the wild.’