Lexical access in talk: A critical consideration of transitional probability and word frequency as possible determinants of pauses in spontaneous speech

Geoffrey Beattie, Heather Shovelton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Geoffrey Beattie & Brian Butterworth's (1979) psycholinguistic study, devoted to the question of which aspects of lexical processing occasion the generation of hesitation pauses within sentences, is reexamined, listing its conclusions & noting that it failed to consider the transitional probability & word frequency of all words in the corpus, limiting it only to content words & employing only a measure of contextual probability. These methodological shortcomings & statistical faults are argued to be significant as they undermine the results obtained, which are "considerably less robust than it might appear from a cursory reading." A new study is conducted to correct these oversights using 12 sentences, comprising the total of 292 words & produced in spontaneous speech by 5 speakers. Six judges attempted to guess the successive words in the sentences using Claude Shannon's (1951) guessing technique for individual guessers. The conclusion of the earlier study that there is a highly significant relationship between the transitional probability of lexical items & word frequency was confirmed. The finding that transitional probability had an overall effect on the generation of within-sentences pauses was also supported, but no overall significant effect on pausing was found for word frequency. Transitional probability had an effect on pausing when word frequency was controlled, in the case of low-frequency words, & in the case of high-frequency content words. Word frequency had no significant effect on the location of within-sentence pauses when transitional probability was controlled in the case of all words, but there was a significant effect in the case of nonzero transitional probability content words. 9 Tables, 46 References. Z. Dubiel
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-71
Number of pages23
JournalSemiotica
Volume2002
Issue number141
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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