Language Comprehension in Dialogue (PHON) 

Principle investigator:

Dr. Mathias Bartel


Leibniz-Institute für Deutsche Sprache Mannheim
Abteilung Pragmatik


October - December 2022

Laboratories used:

Behavioral Lab

Project description:

The PHON_1 experiment is embedded in the larger research program "Speech comprehension in dialogue" under the direction of Dr. Mathias Barthel. The overarching program investigates whether speech comprehension is impaired when participants in a conversation plan their own next speech contribution while their conversation partner is still speaking. The background to this question lies in the following puzzle. In an ordinary conversation, interlocutors manage to seamlessly take over their turns-at-talk by usually starting to speak without a long pause as soon as their interlocutor has finished his or her turn (Stivers et al., 2009; Levinson & Torreira, 2015). In order to be able to switch the roles of speakers and listeners quickly, interlocutors usually start planning their next utterance while the current speaker is still carrying out their turn-at-talk (Barthel, 2020; Barthel et al., 2016, 2017, Bögels et al., 2015). With this early planning strategy, however, the tasks of speech comprehension and speech production overlap in time with the end of the upcoming turn. Since it is known that language-related subtasks of comprehension and production depend on similar mental capacities and partly rely on identical neural circuits (Hagoort et al., 1999; Kempen et al., 2012), it can be assumed that the simultaneous execution of these tasks is cognitively demanding for the interlocutors.
This fact raises the question of whether and to what extent speech production and speech comprehension impair each other in dialog situations. Initial evidence suggests that speech planning in dialog is less efficient when speech is heard at the same time (Barthel & Sauppe, 2019).
To fully understand the mechanisms of speech processing in conversation, we need to investigate whether and in what way speech comprehension is impaired by parallel speech planning. The results will feed into a comprehensive language processing model that is applicable to conversational situations and human interactions in the wild. The overarching research program will investigate whether language comprehension generally takes precedence over language planning in conversations or whether both tasks interfere with each other equally.