Skip to main content Accessibility help

A theory of prediction in simultaneous interpreting

  • Rhona M. Amos (a1) and Martin J. Pickering (a2)


People make comprehension easier by predicting upcoming language. We might therefore expect prediction to occur during the extremely difficult task of simultaneous interpreting. This paper examines the theoretical and empirical foundations of this premise. It reviews accounts of prediction during comprehension in both monolinguals and bilinguals, and discusses these theories in light of experimental data (e.g., using the visual-world paradigm). It considers how these accounts may be applied to the unique and ecologically valid context of simultaneous interpreting, when two languages are used concurrently, one overtly engaging the comprehension system, and the other overtly engaging the production system. It then posits a role for the production system in prediction during comprehension and develops a theoretical framework for prediction-by-production in simultaneous interpreting that has implications for our understanding of prediction during language comprehension.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Rhona M. Amos, E-mail:


Hide All
Adank, P (2012) The neural bases of difficult speech comprehension and speech production: Two Activation Likelihood Estimation (ALE) meta-analyses. Brain and Language 122, 4254.
Adank, P, Hagoort, P and Bekkering, H (2010) Imitation Improves Language Comprehension. Psychological Science 21, 1903–9.
Altmann, GTM and Kamide, Y (1999) Incremental interpretation at verbs: restricting the domain of subsequent reference. Cognition 73, 247264.
Bock, K and Levelt, WJM (1994) Language Production: Grammatical Encoding. In Gernsbacher, MA (ed.), Handbook of Psycholinguistics. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, pp. 945984.
Boiteau, TW, Malone, PS, Peters, SA and Almor, A (2014) Interference between conversation and a concurrent visuomotor task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 143, 295311. doi: 10.1037/a0031858
Chernov, GV (1994) Message Redundancy and Message Anticipation in Simultaneous Interpretation. In Lambert, S and Moser-Mercer, B (eds.), Bridging the gap: empirical research in simultaneous interpretation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 139–155.
Christoffels, IK and De Groot, AMB (2009) Simultaneous Interpreting: A Cognitive Perspective. In Kroll, JF and De Groot, AMB (eds.), Handbook of Bilingualism: Psycholinguistic Approaches. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 371–388.
Costa, A, Caramazza, A and Sebastian-Galles, N (2000) The cognate facilitation effect: Implications for models of lexical access. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 26, 12831296.
Costa, A, Pannunzi, M, Deco, G and Pickering, MJ (2017) Do Bilinguals Automatically Activate Their Native Language When They Are Not Using It? Cognitive Science 41, 16291644.
De Bot, K (1992) A bilingual production model: Levelt's ‘Speaking’ model adapted. Applied Linguistics 13, 124.
De Groot, AMB (2011) Language and Cognition in Bilinguals and Multilinguals. New York: Psychology Press.
Dell, GS and Chang, F (2014) The P-chain: relating sentence production and its disorders to comprehension and acquisition. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences 369, 20120394.
DeLong, KA, Urbach, TP and Kutas, M (2005) Probabilistic word pre-activation during language comprehension inferred from electrical brain activity. Nature Neuroscience 8, 11171121.
Dijkstra, T, Grainger, J and van Heuven, WJB (1999) Recognition of Cognates and Interlingual Homographs: The Neglected Role of Phonology. Journal of Memory and Language 41, 496518.
Dijkstra, T and van Heuven, WJB (2002) The architecture of the bilingual word recognition system: From identification to decision. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 5, 175197.
Dikker, S, Rabagliati, H and Pylkkänen, L (2009) Sensitivity to syntax in visual cortex. Cognition 110, 293321.
Drake, E and Corley, M (2015) Articulatory imaging implicates prediction during spoken language comprehension. Memory and Cognition 43, 1136–47.
Federmeier, KD, Kutas, M and Schul, R (2010) Age-related and individual differences in the use of prediction during language comprehension. Brain and Language 115, 149161.
Federmeier, KD, McLennan, DB, De Ochoa, E and Kutas, M (2002) The impact of semantic memory organization and sentence content information on spoken language processing by younger and older adults. An ERP study. Psychophysiology 39, 133146.
Ferreira, VS and Pashler, H (2002) Central bottleneck influences on the processing stages of word production. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 28, 11871199.
Foucart, A, Martin, CD, Moreno, EM and Costa, A (2014) Can bilinguals see it coming? Word anticipation in L2 sentence reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 40, 1461–9.
Friesen, DC, Whitford, V, Titone, D and Jared, D (2019) The impact of individual differences on cross-language activation of meaning by phonology. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition: 121
Frisson, S, Harvey, DR and Staub, A (2017) No prediction error cost in reading: Evidence from eye movements. Journal of Memory and Language 95, 200214.
Gerver, D (1976) Empirical studies of simultaneous interpretation: A review and a model. In Brislin, R (ed.), Translation: Applications and Research. New York: Gardner Press, pp. 165–207.
Gerver, D, Longley, P, Long, J and Lambert, S (1984) Selecting trainee conference interpreters: A preliminary study. Journal of Occupational Psychology 57, 1731.
Gile, D (2009) Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator Training (Vol. 8). Amsterdam/Philidelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Grisoni, L, McCormick Miller, T and Pulvermüller, F (2017) Neural correlates of semantic prediction and resolution in sentence processing. The Journal of Neuroscience 37, 48484858.
Hartsuiker, RJ, Pickering, MJ and Veltkamp, E (2004) Is syntax separate or shared between languages? Cross-linguistic syntactic priming in Spanish-English bilinguals. Psychological Science 15, 409–14.
Hatzidaki, A, Branigan, HP and Pickering, MJ (2011) Co-activation of syntax in bilingual language production. Cognitive Psychology 62, 123–50.
Hodzik, E and Williams, JN (2017) Predictive processes during simultaneous interpreting from German into English. Interpreting 19, 120.
Huettig, F (2015) Four central questions about prediction in language processing. Brain Research 1626, 118–35.
Huettig, F and Guerra, E (2019) Effects of speech rate, preview time of visual context, and participant instructions reveal strong limits on prediction in language processing. Brain Research 1706, 196208.
Huettig, F and Janse, E (2016) Individual differences in working memory and processing speed predict anticipatory spoken language processing in the visual world. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 31, 8093.
Ito, A, Corley, M and Pickering, MJ (2017) A cognitive load delays predictive eye movements similarly during L1 and L2 comprehension. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 21, 251264.
Ito, A, Corley, M, Pickering, MJ, Martin, AE and Nieuwland, MS (2016) Predicting form and meaning: Evidence from brain potentials. Journal of Memory and Language 86, 157171.
Ito, A, Pickering, MJ and Corley, M (2018) Investigating the time-course of phonological prediction in native and non-native speakers of English: A visual world eye-tracking study. Journal of Memory and Language 98, 111.
Jared, D and Kroll, JF (2001) Do Bilinguals Activate Phonological Representations in One or Both of Their Languages When Naming Words? Journal of Memory and Language 44, 231.
Kukona, A, Fang, S-Y, Aicher, KA, Chen, H and Magnuson, JS (2011) The time course of anticipatory constraint integration. Cognition 119, 2342.
Kuperberg, GR (2016) Separate streams or probabilistic inference? What the N400 can tell us about the comprehension of events. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 31, 602616.
Kuperberg, GR and Jaeger, TF (2016) What do we mean by prediction in language comprehension? Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 31, 3259.
Lazlo, S and Federmeier, KD (2009) A beautiful day in the neighbourhood: An event-related potential study of lexical relationships and prediction in context. Journal of Memory and Language 61, 326338.
Levelt, WJM, Roelofs, A and Meyer, AS (1999) A theory of lexical access in speech production. Behavioural and Brain Sciences 22, 175.
Mani, N and Huettig, F (2012) Prediction during language processing is a piece of cake – but only for skilled producers. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 38, 843847.
Marian, V and Spivey, M (2003) Competing activation in bilingual language processing: Within- and between-language competition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 6, 97115.
Marslen-Wilson, W (1973) Linguistic Structure and Speech Shadowing at Very Short Latencies. Nature 244, 522523.
Martin, CD, Branzi, FM and Bar, M (2018) Prediction is Production: The missing link between language production and comprehension. Scientific Reports 8, 1079.
Martin, CD, Thierry, G, Kuipers, J-R, Boutonnet, B, Foucart, A and Costa, A (2013) Bilinguals reading in their second language do not predict upcoming words as native readers do. Journal of Memory and Language 69, 574588.
Mercier, J, Pivneva, I and Titone, D (2014) Individual differences in inhibitory control relate to bilingual spoken word processing. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 17, 89117.
Metusalem, R, Kutas, M, Urbach, TP, Hare, M, McRae, K and Elman, JL (2012) Generalized event knowledge activation during online sentence comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language 66, 545567.
Mishra, RK, Singh, N, Pandey, A and Huettig, F (2012) Spoken language-mediated anticipatory eye-movements are modulated by reading ability - Evidence from Indian low and high literates. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 5 3, 110.
Moser, B (1978) Simultaneous interpretation: A hypothetical model and its practical application. In Gerver, D and Sinaiko, HW (eds.), Language, Interpretation and Communication. New York: Plenum Press, pp. 353–368.
Moser-Mercer, B, Frauenfelder, UH, Casado, B and Künzli, A (2000) Searching to Define Expertise in Interpreting. In Dimitrova, BE and Hyltenstam, K (eds.), Language Processing and Simultaneous Interpreting. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 107–133.
Nieuwland, M, Politzer-Ahles, S, Heyselaar, E, Segaert, K, Darley, E, Kazanina, N, Von Grebmer Zu Wolfsthurn, S, Bartolozzi, F, Kogan, V, Ito, A, Mézière, D, Barr, DJ, Rousselet, G, Ferguson, HJ, Busch-Moreno, S, Fu, X, Tuomainen, J, Kulakova E, Husband, M, Donaldson, DI, Kohút, Z, Rueschemeyer, S-A and Huettig, F (2017) Limits on prediction in language comprehension: A multi-lab failure to replicate evidence for probabilistic pre-activation of phonology. bioRxiv 111807.
Otten, M, Nieuwland, MS and Van Berkum, JJ (2007) Great expectations: specific lexical anticipation influences the processing of spoken language. BMC Neuroscience 8, 89.
Otten, M and Van Berkum, JJA (2008) Discourse-Based Word Anticipation During Language Processing: Prediction or Priming? Discourse Processes 45, 464496.
Pickering, MJ and Gambi, C (2018) Predicting while comprehending language: A theory and review. Psychological Bulletin 144, 10021044.
Pickering, MJ and Garrod, S (2007) Do people use language production to make predictions during comprehension? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11, 105110.
Pickering, MJ and Garrod, S (2013) An integrated theory of language production and comprehension. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36, 329347.
Rommers, J, Meyer, AS, Praamstra, P and Huettig, F (2013) The contents of predictions in sentence comprehension: Activation of the shape of objects before they are referred to. Neuropsychologica 51, 437447.
Seeber, KG (2001) Intonation and anticipation in simultaneous interpreting. Cahiers de Linguistique Française 23, 6197.
Seeber, KG (2011) Cognitive load in simultaneous interpreting: Existing theories — new models. Interpreting 13, 176204.
Segalowitz, N and Hulstijn, JH (2009) Automaticity in bilingualism and second language learning. In Kroll, JF and De Groot, AMB (eds.), Handbook of Bilingualism: Psycholinguistic Approaches. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 371–388.
Seleskovitch, D (1984) Les anticipations de la compréhension. In Seleskovitch, D and Lederer, M (eds.), Interpréter pour traduire. France: Didier Erudition, pp. 273–283.
Setton, R (1999) Simultaneous Interpretation: A cognitive-pragmatic analysis. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Setton, R (2005) Pointing to contexts: A relevance-theoretic approach to assessing quality and difficulty in interpreting. In Gerzymisch-Arbogast, H and Van Dam, H (eds.), Knowledge Systems and Translation pp. 275312. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter.
Sjerps, MJ and Meyer, AS (2015) Variation in dual-task performance reveals late initiation of speech planning in turn-taking. Cognition 136, 304324.
Staub, A, Grant, M, Astheimer, L and Cohen, A (2015) The influence of cloze probability and item constraint on cloze task response time. Journal of Memory and Language 82, 117.
Swinney, DA (1979) Lexical access during sentence comprehension: (Re)consideration of context effects. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 18, 645659.
Tanenhaus, MK, Spivey-Knowlton, MJ, Eberhard, KM and Sedivy, JC (1995) Integration of visual and linguistic information in spoken language comprehension. Science 268, 16321634.
Thierry, G and Wu, YJ (2007) Brain potentials reveal unconscious translation during foreign-language comprehension. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104, 1253012535.
Van Berkum, JJ, Brown, CM, Zwitserlood, P, Kooijman, V and Hagoort, P (2005) Anticipating upcoming words in discourse: evidence from ERPs and reading times. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 31, 443–67.
Van Besien, F (1999) Anticipation in simultaneous interpretation. Meta 44, 250259.
Wicha, NYY, Moreno, EM and Kutas, M (2004) Anticipating Words and Their Gender: An Event-related Brain Potential Study of Semantic Integration, Gender Expectancy, and Gender Agreement in Spanish Sentence Reading. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 16, 12721288.
Wilss, W (1978) Syntactic Anticipation in German-English Simultaneous Interpreting. In Gerver, D and Sinaiko, HW (eds.), Language interpretation and communication. New York: Plenum Press, pp. 343352.


A theory of prediction in simultaneous interpreting

  • Rhona M. Amos (a1) and Martin J. Pickering (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed