The temporal coordination of thinking and speaking
In everyday conversations, we often begin to speak before we have completely decided what we are going to say and how we are going to say it. This raises the question as to how speaking and thinking are coordinated temporally. How far do speakers think ahead? Scientists at the MPI for Psycholinguistics show how analyses of speakers' eye movements can be used to investigate this question. Their studies demonstrate how the temporal course of sentence preparation is shaped by the content and form of the utterances formulated by speakers. Their findings present new perspectives on the relationship between thinking and language.
"Think before you speak!" This well-meant piece of advice is typically given when someone has already put their foot in it or divulged a well-kept secret. This is hardly surprising: We have long known that speakers only seldom consider in advance exactly what they would like to say. Instead, they usually only plan the beginning of an utterance, start to speak and then continue with their planning while voicing the beginning of the sentence. This works because the planning of speech, that is the selection of the correct words and their order in a sentence, is a faster process than actually saying the words. For example, a speaker needs at least 1.5 seconds to say "The little girl
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