Making and breaking procedural conventions in dialogue


A key problem for models of dialogue is to explain how co-ordination is established and sustained. Existing accounts emphasize the importance of interaction, demonstrating how collaborative feedback leads to more systematized, stable, arbitrary and partner-specific referring conventions. However, in addition to conventionalizing referring expressions, recent work demonstrates how interlocutors also rapidly establish procedural conventions for resolving sequential and temporal co-ordination problems in the interaction. It is unclear, however, whether interlocutors associate these procedural conventions with specific conversational partners. To address this question, we report a collaborative, 3-participant, computer-mediated task which presents participants with the recurrent co-ordination problem of ordering their actions and utterances into a single sequence. Artificially generated clarification requests are inserted into the dialogue, that appear, to each participant, as if they originate from either of the 2 other participants. We argue that participants' responses to these clarifications provide evidence of interlocutors associating procedural conventions with specific partners.

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