Syntactic complexity versus concatenation in a verbal production task

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We tested whether the speaker&#8217;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.


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