Communicative efficiency and the Principle of No Synonymy: Predictability effects and the variation of want to and wanna
Levshina, N., & Lorenz, D.
Communicative efficiency and the Principle of No Synonymy: Predictability effects and the variation of want to and wanna. Language and Cognition, 14
(2), 249-274. doi:10.1017/langcog.2022.7.
There is ample psycholinguistic evidence that speakers behave efficiently, using shorter and less effortful constructions when the meaning is more predictable, and longer and more effortful ones when it is less predictable. However, the Principle of No Synonymy requires that all formally distinct variants should also be functionally different. The question is how much two related constructions should overlap semantically and pragmatically in order to be used for the purposes of efficient communication. The case study focuses on want to + Infinitive and its reduced variant with wanna, which have different stylistic and sociolinguistic connotations. Bayesian mixed-effects regression modelling based on the spoken part of the British National Corpus reveals a very limited effect of efficiency: predictability increases the chances of the reduced variant only in fast speech. We conclude that efficient use of more and less effortful variants is restricted when two variants are associated with different registers or styles. This paper also pursues a methodological goal regarding missing values in speech corpora. We impute missing data based on the existing values. A comparison of regression models with and without imputed values reveals similar tendencies. This means that imputation is useful for dealing with missing values in corpora.