Interface of linguistic and visual information during audience design

Fukumura, Kumiko (2015) Interface of linguistic and visual information during audience design. Cognitive Science, 39 (6). 1419–1433. ISSN 0364-0213

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    Abstract

    Evidence suggests that speakers can take account of the addressee's needs when referring. However, what representations drive the speaker’s audience design has been less clear. The current study thus aims to go beyond previous studies by investigating the interplay between the visual and linguistic context during audience design. Speakers repeated subordinate descriptions (e.g. firefighter) given in the prior linguistic context less and used basic-level descriptions (e.g., man) more when the addressee did not hear the linguistic context than s/he did. But crucially, this effect happened only when the referent lacked the visual attributes associated with the expressions (e.g., the referent was in plain clothes rather than in a firefighter uniform), so there was no other contextual cue available for the identification of the referent. This suggests that speakers flexibly use different contextual cues to help their addressee map the referring expression onto the intended referent. Additionally, speakers used fewer pronouns when the addressee did not hear the linguistic antecedent than s/he did. This suggests that although speakers may be egocentric when taking the referent's accessibility into account during anaphoric reference (Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2012), they can avoid pronouns when the linguistic antecedents were not shared with their addressee during initial reference.