Invited talk 4

Individual Differences in Discourse Processing: Lessons from Statistical Learning, Sentence Processing and Dialogue Analyses

Morten H. Christiansen

There are substantial individual differences in people’s abilities to use language—even in everyday conversations—from basic speech perception to sentence processing to interpreting larger parts of discourse. Recent years has seen a growing interest in capturing such variation in language ability across individuals to provide new theoretical insights into the underlying mechanisms. However, a key challenge for studying individual differences in language use is that many experimental tasks that work well at the group level may not be reliable at the level of the individual, often resulting in mixed results across studies. This issue is particularly relevant for the nascent study of individual differences in discourse and pragmatic processing. Further complications derive from context- and language-specific differences in the use of conversational devices in dialogue. In this talk, I will draw on recent work on individual differences in statistical learning and sentence processing, along with cross-linguistic analyses of dialogue, to derive lessons for the study of individual variation in discourse processing.