A study of syntactic bookkeeping during sentence production

Kempen, G. (1979). A study of syntactic bookkeeping during sentence production. In H. Ueckert, & D. Rhenius (Eds.), Komplexe menschliche Informationsverarbeitung (pp. 361-368). Bern: Hans Huber.
It is an important feature of the human sentence production system that semantic and syntactic processes may overlap in time and do not proceed strictly serially. That is, the process of building the syntactic form of an utterance does not always wait until the complete semantic content for that utterance has been decided upon. On the contrary, speakers will often start pronouncing the first words of a sentence while still working on further details of its semantic content. An important advantage is memory economy. Semantic and syntactic fragments do not have to occupy working memory until complete semantic and syntactic structures for an utterance have been computed. Instead, each semantic and syntactic fragment is processed as soon as possible and is kept in working memory for a minimum period of time. This raises the question of how the sentence production system can maintain syntactic coherence across syntactic fragments. Presumably there are processes of "syntactic bookkeeping" which (1) store in working memory those syntactic properties of a fragmentary sentence which are needed to eliminate ungrammatical continuations, and (2) check whether a prospective continuation is indeed compatible with the sentence constructed so far. In reaction time experiments where subjects described, under time pressure, simple static pictures of an action performed by an actor, the second aspect of syntactic bookkeeping could be demonstrated. This evidence is used for modelling bookkeeping processes as part of a computational sentence generator which aims at simulating the syntactic operations people carry out during spontaneous speech.
Publication type
Book chapter
Publication date

Share this page