Simulating time-constrained language production

Jean Carletta, Richard Caley, Stephen Isard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The goal of our research is to model the human production of language under time constraints. When people speak under time pressure, they tend to be less fluent than they are in unpressured situations. However, much of human language is produced under the time pressure which arises naturally out of interactive situations; in dialogue, failure to begin speaking can be taken to indicate forfeiture of one’s turn. There are some widespread strategies which human speakers seem to use when they encounter time pressure, but their effects, and the implications for natural language research, have largely been ignored. Human speakers often hesitate until they have constructed an utterance which better matches their intentions by, for instance, using terms like “erm” and “you know”. They also often commit early to a particular utterance which they aren’t sure accurately
conveys the intended meaning, only to spontaneously self-repair afterwards (e.g. “Go left, sorry, I mean right at that place with all the churches-Holy Corner”). These behaviours are so common in everyday dialogue that hearers usually fail even to notice that they have occurred. Hesitation and spontaneous self-repair are clearly important for research into speech recognition, since any system which is to be able to understand natural human speech must be able to recognise and interpret utterances containing them. These behaviours also provide us with some insight into the organisation of the processes underlying human language production (see in particular Levelt, 1983, for the implications of spontaneous self-repair), since they tell us something about where these processes can be subdivided and interrupted. Moreover, we would argue that these strategies could also profitably be used to handle the time pressure which machines face in human-computer interaction, both in systems which communicate using natural language and those which use other techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-361
Number of pages5
JournalLanguage and Cognitive Processes
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1995


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