Audience design in meaning and reference

Herbert H. Clark, Gregory L. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We argue that the speaker designs each utterance for specific listeners, and they, in turn, make essential use of this fact in understanding that utterance. We call this property of utterances audience design. Often listeners can come to a unique interpretation for an utterance only if they assume that the speaker designed it just so that they could come to that interpretation uniquely. We illustrate reasoning from audience design in the understanding of definite reference, anaphora, and word meaning, and we offer evidence that listeners actually reason this way. We conclude that audience design must play a central role in any adequate theory of understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-299
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Psychology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jan 1 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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