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Journal Article

Surface form and memory in question answering


Levelt,  Willem J. M.
Language Production Group Levelt, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Levelt, W. J. M., & Kelter, S. (1982). Surface form and memory in question answering. Cognitive Psychology, 14, 78-106. doi:10.1016/0010-0285(82)90005-6.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-2DCA-0
Speakers tend to repeat materials from previous talk. This tendency is experimentally established and manipulated in various question-answering situations. It is shown that a question's surface form can affect the format of the answer given, even if this form has little semantic or conversational consequence, as in the pair Q: (At) what time do you close. A: “(At)five o'clock.” Answerers tend to match the utterance to the prepositional (nonprepositional) form of the question. This “correspondence effect” may diminish or disappear when, following the question, additional verbal material is presented to the answerer. The experiments show that neither the articulatory buffer nor long-term memory is normally involved in this retention of recent speech. Retaining recent speech in working memory may fulfill a variety of functions for speaker and listener, among them the correct production and interpretation of surface anaphora. Reusing recent materials may, moreover, be more economical than regenerating speech anew from a semantic base, and thus contribute to fluency. But the realization of this strategy requires a production system in which linguistic formulation can take place relatively independent of, and parallel to, conceptual planning.