cSCAN Rounds

Understanding Dialogue: Language Use & Social Interactions (1)

The most basic and natural form of language use is dialogue, yet theories of the representation and processing of language (including its neuroscientific basis) are almost entirely based on monologue – isolated acts of production or comprehension. In contrast, research on dialogue is largely oriented toward social sciences and does not attempt to understand cognitive mechanisms. We outline an account of language processing in dialogue that we believe should serve as the basic framework for psycholinguistic theory. We bring together two strands of theory: (1) Dialogue as a process of “interactive alignment”, whereby interlocutors achieve communicative success by a largely non-conscious process of aligning their linguistic and non-linguistic representations; and (2) Language production and comprehension as integrated processes, with comprehenders covertly imitating and predicting speakers. We develop a systems-based framework, the Bulletin Board Model, to characterise how individual cognitive agents can come together to control joint activities. We then use this framework to explain the dialogue processing system underlying language use in dialogue.