Lexical Alignment to Non-native Speakers


  • Iva Ivanova University of Texas at El Paso, USA.
  • Holly Branigan University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
  • Janet McLean Abertay University, Dundee, UK.
  • Albert Costa Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Martin Pickering University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.




Two picture-matching-game experiments investigated if lexical-referential alignment to non-native speakers is enhanced by a desire to aid communicative success (by saying something the conversation partner can certainly understand), a form of audience design. In Experiment 1, a group of native speakers of British English that was not given evidence of their conversation partners’ picture-matching performance showed more alignment to non-native than to native speakers, while another group that was given such evidence aligned equivalently to the two types of speaker. Experiment 2, conducted with speakers of Castilian Spanish, replicated the greater alignment to non-native than native speakers without feedback. However, Experiment 2 also showed that production of grammatical errors by the confederate produced no additional increase of alignment even though making errors suggests lower communicative competence. We suggest that this pattern is consistent with another collaborative strategy, the desire to model correct usage. Together, these results support a role for audience design in alignment to non-native speakers in structured task-based dialogue, but one that is strategically deployed only when deemed necessary.