Processes of incremental message planning during conversation

Sarah Brown-Schmidt, Agnieszka Ewa Konopka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Speaking begins with the formulation of an intended preverbal message and linguistic encoding of this information. The transition from thought to speech occurs incrementally, with cascading planning at subsequent levels of production. In this article, we aim to specify the mechanisms that support incremental message preparation. We contrast two hypotheses about the mechanisms responsible for incorporating message-level information into a linguistic plan. According to the Initial Preparation view, messages can be encoded as fluent utterances if all information is ready before speaking begins. By contrast, on the Continuous Incrementality view, messages can be continually prepared and updated throughout the production process, allowing for fluent production even if new information is added to the message while speaking is underway. Testing these hypotheses, eye-tracked speakers in two experiments produced unscripted, conjoined noun phrases with modifiers. Both experiments showed that new message elements can be incrementally incorporated into the utterance even after articulation begins, consistent with a Continuous Incrementality view of message planning, in which messages percolate to linguistic encoding immediately as that information becomes available in the mind of the speaker. We conclude by discussing the functional role of incremental message planning in conversational speech and the situations in which this continuous incremental planning would be most likely to be observed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-843
Number of pages11
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
Early online date28 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Author note We thank Franklin Chang for helpful discussions, and Tatsuya Shigeta and Stephanie Gnatek for help with data collection.


  • Language production
  • Incrementality
  • Eye-tracking
  • message planning
  • scalar adjective


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