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The rapid and fluent nature of human communicative interactions strongly suggests the existence of an online mechanism for intention recognition. We motivate and outline a mathematical model that addresses these requirements. Our model provides a way of integrating knowledge about the relationship between linguistic expressions and communicative intentions, through a rapid process of Bayesian update. It enables us to frame predictions about the processes of intention recognition, utterance planning and other-repair mechanisms, and contributes towards a broader theory of communication.