Coordinating in dialogue: Using compound contributions to join a party
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Compound contributions (CCs) – dialogue contributions that continue or complete an earlier contribution – are an important and common device conversational participants use to extend their own and each other’s turns. The organisation of these cross-turn structures is one of the defining characteristics of natural dialogue, and cross-person CCs provide the paradigm case of coordination in dialogue. This thesis combines corpus analysis, experiments and theoretical modelling to explore how CCs are used, their effects on coordination and implications for dialogue models. The syntactic and pragmatic distribution of CCs is mapped using corpora of ordinary and task-oriented dialogues. This indicates that the principal factors conditioning the distribution of CCs are pragmatic and that same- and cross-person CCs tend to occur in different contexts. In order to test the impact of CCs on other conversational participants, two experiments are presented. These systematically manipulate, for the first time, the occurrence of CCs in live dialogue using text-based communication. The results suggest that syntax does not directly constrain the interpretation of CCs, and the primary effect of a cross-person CC on third parties is to suggest to them a strong form of coordination or coalition has formed between the people producing the two parts of the CC. A third experiment explores the conditions under which people will produce a completion for a truncated turn. Manipulations of the structural and contextual predictability of the truncated turn show that while syntax provides a resource for the construction of a CC it does not place significant constraints on where the split point may occur. It also shows that people are more likely to produce continuations when they share common ground. An analysis using the Dynamic Syntax framework is proposed, which extends previous work to account for these findings, and limitations and further research possibilities are outlined.
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