Lexical and contextual cue effects in discourse expectations: Experimenting with German 'zwar...aber' and English 'true/sure...but'

  • Juliane Schwab Institute of Cognitive Science Osnabruck University
  • Mingya Liu Department of English and American Studies Humboldt University of Berlin


Existing literature shows that readers and listeners rapidly adjust their expectations about likely discourse continuations through discourse markers, as well as through other linguistic and extra-linguistic cues. However, it is unclear whether (i) the facilitative effects of various (extra-)linguistic cues differ in quality and (ii) whether the effects interact with one another in any principled manner. We conducted two self-paced reading experiments on concessive constructions in German and English wherein optional lexical and/or contextual cues appeared ahead of the concessive discourse marker. The results demonstrate that readers can use both types of cues to anticipate the upcoming discourse relation. Our study thus provides novel evidence for expectation-driven accounts of discourse processing and elucidates the functions of discourse signals. Furthermore, the results also show that the role that a type of cues plays is subject to cross-linguistic variation.