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Education & Language - Linguistics | Asymmetries between Language Production and Comprehension

Asymmetries between Language Production and Comprehension

Hendriks, Petra

2014, XI, 234 p. 60 illus.

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  • Offers the first unified explanation of several asymmetries between language production and language comprehension
  • Asserts that grammar is shaped by the competition between the speaker’s perspective and the hearer’s perspective
  • Combines insights in theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics and computational modeling on the organization, use and acquisition of language

This book asserts that language is a signaling system rather than a code, based in part on such research as the finding that 5-year-old English and Dutch children use pronouns correctly in their own utterances, but often fail to interpret these forms correctly when used by someone else.

Emphasizing the unique and sometimes competing demands of listener and speaker, the author examines resulting asymmetries between production and comprehension. The text offers examples of the interpretation of word order and pronouns by listeners, and word order freezing and referential choice by speakers. It is explored why the usual symmetry breaks down in children but also sometimes in adults.

Gathering contemporary insights from theoretical linguistic research, psycholinguistic studies and computational modeling, Asymmetries between Language Production and Comprehension presents a unified explanation of this phenomenon.

“Through a lucid, comprehensive review of acquisition studies on reference-related phenomena, Petra Hendriks builds a striking case for the pervasiveness of asymmetries in comprehension/production. In her view, listeners systematically misunderstand what they hear, and speakers systematically fail to prevent such misunderstandings. She argues that linguistic theory should take stock of current psycholinguistic and developmental evidence on optionality and ambiguity, and recognize language as a signaling system. The arguments are compelling yet controversial: grammar does not specify a one-to-one correspondence between form and meaning; and the demands of the mapping task differ for listeners and speakers. Her proposal is formalized within optimality theory, but researchers working outside this framework will still find it of great interest. In the language-as-code vs. language-as-signal debate, Hendriks puts the ball firmly in the other court.” Ana Pérez-Leroux, University of Toronto, Canada

Content Level » Research

Keywords » Acquiring symmetry through prioritizing - Children's acquisition of word order - Different binding domains - Grammtical explanationof referntial choice - Pragmatic explanations of DPBE - Pronouns in competition - Word order asymmetry - children's misinterpretation of pronouns

Related subjects » Linguistics

Table of contents 

1 Understanding and Misunderstanding . 1.1 The Eliza Effect . 1.2 Language as a Code . 1.3 Language as a Signal . 1.4 Speaking Versus Understanding . 1.5 Prioritizing . 1.6 Perspective Taking . 1.7 Overview of the Book . References .- 2            Asymmetries in Language Acquisition . 2.1 When Production Precedes Comprehension . 2.2 Asymmetry with Word Order . 2.3 Explaining the Word Order Asymmetry . 2.4    Further Evidence for the Word Order Asymmetry . 2.5 Acquiring Symmetry Through Prioritizing . 2.6       Inflection as a Cue in Production but Not in Comprehension . 2.7 Pronouns in Competition . 2.8          Non-Adult Interpretations of Scrambled Word Order . 2.9 Acquiring Symmetry Through Perspective Taking . 2.10 Children’s Difficulty with Marked Forms . 2.11 Asymmetries Everywhere? . References .- 3 The Listener’s Perspective . 3.1 Children’s Misinterpretation of Pronouns . 3.2 The Delay of Principle B Effect . 3.3 Pragmatic Explanations of the DPBE . 3.4 Delayed Comprehension, but No Delayed Production . 3.5 Grammatical Explanation of the DPBE . 3.6 Children’s Failure to Take into Account the Speaker’s Perspective . 3.7 Task-Based Explanations of the DPBE . 3.8 Interface Explanations of the DPBE . 3.9 A Computational Model of the Acquisition of Object Pronouns . 3.11 Cognitive Constraints on Pronoun Comprehension . 3.11 Principle B as a Derived Pattern . References .- 4 The Speaker’s Perspective . 4.1 Ambiguity of Meaning . 4.2  Referential Choice and Optionality of Form . 4.3   Children’s Overuse of Pronouns . 4.4 Children’s Failure to Take into Account the Listener’s Perspective . 4.5  Grammatical Explanation of Referential Choice . 4.6 A Computational Model of the Use of Referring Expressions . 4.7       Word Order Variation and Word Order Freezing . 4.8 Speakers Aim at Avoiding Misunderstanding . References .- 5 Symmetry and Asymmetry Across Languages . 5.1 Cross-Linguistic Differences in Asymmetries . 5.2 Children’s Acquisition of Word Order . 5.3 The Delay of Principle B Effect is Not a Universal Delay . 5.4 The DPBE is Sensitive to Structural Properties of the Language . 5.5    Different Binding Domains . 5.6 Accounting for the Breakdown in Complementary Distribution . 5.7 Cross-Linguistic Differences in Topic Marking . 5.8 Pronouns in ECM Constructions Are Cross-Linguistically Difficult . 5.9 Some Non-Clitic Languages Behave like Clitic Languages . 5.10     Resolving Asymmetries Cross-Linguistically . References .- 6 Competing Perspectives . 6.1 Asymmetries Between Production and Comprehension . 6.2 Asymmetries Show Linguistic Systematicity  . 6.3 Asymmetries Occur at All Levels of the Grammar . 6.4      Asymmetries Disappear with Linguistic Development . 6.5  Final Considerations . References .- Appendix . A.0         Optimality Theory . A.1          OT Analyses for Chapter 1 . A.2 . OT Analyses for Chapter 2 . A.3 OT Analyses for Chapter 3 . A.4 OT Analyses for Chapter 4 . A.5         OT Analyses for Chapter 5 . References .- Index


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