Syntactic complexity versus concatenation in a verbal production task
We tested whether the speaker’s communicative intent drives the selection of grammatical constructions. Participants viewed complex human action video stimuli and were asked to respond in detail to a single question for each video concerning either <i>what</i> had happened (eliciting descriptions) or <i>why</i> a particular event had occurred (eliciting explanations). We predicted that responses to the <i>why</i> questions would contain more syntactically complex constructions (specifically verbal complements), while responses to the <i>what</i> questions would be more concatenated. The experimental results with these stimuli did not uphold the first part of the hypothesis: complexity in the form of syntactic embedding was statistically equivalent under both conditions. However, there was significantly more concatenation in the form of coordination in the <i>what</i> condition.