Discourse Cues in Narrative Text: Using Production to Predict Comprehension

David Allbritton and Johanna Moore

Discourse cues (e.g., because, since, therefore, and so) express structural and semantic relationships between parts of an explanation, and are used extensively by human tutors. Previous research by Moser and Moore (in preparation) revealed patterns of cue occurrence, placement, and selection in the speech of expert tutors during tutorial dialogues. An experiment measuring both reading times and recognition memory for cued and uncued sentences in a narrative text was conducted to test the hypothesis that patterns of cue usage observed in the speech of expert human tutors could predict comprehension. Small but reliable effects on comprehension were observed. The results are discussed in relation to strategies for generating comprehensible text in an Intelligent Tutoring System, differences between narrative and expository texts, and the role of distributional analyses of naturally occurring dialogue in understanding discourse comprehension.

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