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Least collaborative effort or least individual effort: Examining the evidence


By: Bethan L. Davies

In Clark’s Collaborative theory, least collaborative effort is seen as one outcome of the joint production of language. This assumption is problematic in three respects. Firstly, the claim for least collaborative effort is made in contrast to rather idealised conceptions of ‘least effort’. Secondly, the way in which effort is often measured seems somewhat simplistic: utterance length does not necessarily equate to utterance effort. Finally, assuming that shifts in language behaviour and changes in modality necessarily lead to overall least effort fails to engage with the complexity of the situation.

It is argued that the experimental evidence can be more effectively explained by seeing the reduction of effort being an individual motivation rather than a jointly conceived one: the shifts in behaviour often cause more work for one participant than another, and can even have deleterious effects on another individual’s performance.

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