Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

The Role of Connectives in the Comprehension of Spontaneous Spoken Discourse

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

The Role of Connectives in the Comprehension of Spontaneous Spoken Discourse

Article excerpt

The role of connectives in the comprehension of spontaneous spoken discourse has been investigated by testing the effect of the connective 'but' in the realization of causal inferences and the integration of adjacent statements. The role of this connective in the realization of causal inferences has been tested through a judgment task. The role of 'but' in the integration of the adjacent statements has been tested through a word monitoring task. The presence of the connective resulted in shorter reaction times for the realization of causal inferences in the judgment task, but it did not result in shorter reaction times for the integration of adjacent statements, as measured by the word monitoring task. These results suggest that listeners are able to make use of connectives to help them create and decide on the existence of causal connections, but not to process and recognize the surface form of the second statement of the pair.

Keywords: connectives, spoken discourse, causal inferences, comprehension

El rol de los conectores en la comprensión de discurso oral espontáneo ha sido estudiado examinando el efecto del conector 'pero' en la realización de inferencias causales y en la integración de enunciados adyacentes. El rol de este conector en la realización de inferencias causales ha sido investigado a través de una tarea de elaboración. El rol de 'pero' en la integración de enunciados adyacentes ha sido investigado a través de una tarea de monitoreo de palabras. La presencia del conector resultó en menores tiempos de reacción para la realización de inferencias causales en la tarea de elaboración, pero no resultó en tiempos menores de reacción para la integración de enunciados adyacentes en la tarea de monitoreo de palabras. Estos resultados sugieren que los oyentes son capaces de utilizar la presencia de un conector para crear y decidir acerca de la existencia de conexiones causales entre los enunciados, pero no para procesar y reconocer la forma superficial del segundo enunciado del par conectado.

Palabras clave: conectores, discurso oral, inferencias causales, comprensión

Discourse comprehension has been extensively investigated with respect to texts, and narrative texts in particular (e.g., Calvo & Castillo, 2001; Campion & Rossi, 2001; Mandler & Johnson, 1977; Shears, & Chiarello, 2004; Shears, Miller, Ball, Hawkins, Griggs, & Varner, 2007; van den Broek & Trabasso, 1986; Zwaan, & Madden, 2004; Zwaan & Radvansky, 1998). One of the most consistent findings has been that comprehension involves the reader's identification of meaningful relations-in particular local and global causal ones- between text elements, and that these processes result in a coherent representation of the discourse in memory. That is, evidence has shown that events with many causal connections are recalled more often than events with few connections (Trabasso & van den Broek, 1985; Goldman and Varnhagen, 1986), rated as more important (Trabasso & Sperry, 1985), and retrieved more quickly (O'Brien & Myers, 1987). Yet, little attention has been paid to the processing of causality, connectives and realization of inferences in the comprehension of spontaneous spoken discourse. The purpose of this study is to explore such issues, by focusing on the role of connectives in the integration of spoken discourse, and the establishment of causal connections among spoken statements.

Spontaneous spoken discourse has traditionally been approached through discourse analysis, and through comprehension studies that have focused on the processing of speech disfluencies and prosodic cues. Approaches to discourse analysis have applied the methodology and theoretical principles of linguistics to isolate units, to formulate rules, and to identify recurring patterns in naturally occurring conversations (Schiffrin, 1994; Stubbs, 1983). Studies on the processing of spontaneous speech have focused on listeners' ability to predict, detect, and manage disfluencies (Brennan & Schober, 2001; Fox Tree, 1995; Lickley & Bard, 1998), listeners' use of filled pauses (Fox Tree, 2001; Fox Tree, 2002), listeners' use of prosodic cues (Schafer, Speer, Warren & White, 2000; Snedeker & Trueswell, 2003; Kraljic & Brennan, 2005), and so on. …

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