Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 101–123

The Information Conveyed by Words in Sentences

  • John Hale

DOI: 10.1023/A:1022492123056

Cite this article as:
Hale, J. J Psycholinguist Res (2003) 32: 101. doi:10.1023/A:1022492123056


A method is presented for calculating the amount of information conveyed to a hearer by a speaker emitting a sentence generated by a probabilistic grammar known to both parties. The method applies the work of Grenander (1967) to the intermediate states of a top-down parser. This allows the uncertainty about structural ambiguity to be calculated at each point in a sentence. Subtracting these values at successive points gives the information conveyed by a word in a sentence. Word-by-word information conveyed is calculated for several small probabilistic grammars, and it is suggested that the number of bits conveyed per word is a determinant of reading times and other measures of cognitive load.

computational psycholinguisticsentropy reduction

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Hale
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive ScienceThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore