Speakers Can Avoid Confusion for Listeners, Researchers Find
If someone told you to "put the apple in the basket on the table," what would you do? Depending on how many apples and baskets are in your kitchen, it might not be clear. Would you move the apple in the basket to the table, or move the apple to the basket on the table? Had the speaker included the word "thats" after the word "apple," it would have eliminated any confusion. But people often fail to avoid such ambiguities when they speak. Previous research has shown that speakers choose their sentences based, in part, on how easy those sentences are to produce for themselves while not taking ease of comprehension into account. An ambiguous phrase is often easier to construct than an unambiguous one, so some people will speak ambiguously even if they are likely to be misunderstood.
Are speakers just unaware of the possibility for confusion? Are they deliberately trying to be uncooperative? Are they just lazy?
Sarah Haywood | EurekAlert!
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