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Cognition. 2013 Dec;129(3):544-62. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.08.007. Epub 2013 Sep 14.

Ways of looking ahead: hierarchical planning in language production.

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, United States. Electronic address:


It is generally assumed that language production proceeds incrementally, with chunks of linguistic structure planned ahead of speech. Extensive research has examined the scope of language production and suggests that the size of planned chunks varies across contexts (Ferreira & Swets, 2002; Wagner & Jescheniak, 2010). By contrast, relatively little is known about the structure of advance planning, specifically whether planning proceeds incrementally according to the surface structure of the utterance, or whether speakers plan according to the hierarchical relationships between utterance elements. In two experiments, we examine the structure and scope of lexical planning in language production using a picture description task. Analyses of speech onset times and word durations show that speakers engage in hierarchical planning such that structurally dependent lexical items are planned together and that hierarchical planning occurs for both direct and indirect dependencies.


Hierarchical planning; Language production; Planning scope

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