Audience Design in Word Order
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When we speak, we adapt what we say according to our listeners. This ability is established at the levels of concepts and lexical choice, but it is less certain whether audience design is possible in grammatical structure. Studies investigating this question have produced mixed results, and many of them are limited by their dependence on monologue-based tests, or the way in which they have used confederates. The present study examined speakers’ ability to adapt their word order to make it easier for their listeners to follow their instructions in a communication game. Overall, a significant audience design effect was found, and this occurred spontaneously, without the presence of a confederate model. Not all participants engaged in this form of audience design, and the tendency to do so depended on their conscious awareness of the adaptation, as reported in a post-experiment questionnaire. Participants were able to learn to design their utterances with experience of the task, and they may also have learned from the example of their interlocutors. We conclude that audience design is possible at the level of word order, and that, in this case, its production depends on conscious understanding of the adaptation.