A computer-implemented technique is described for processing a linguistic item (e.g., a query) in an efficient and scalable manner. The technique interprets the linguistic item using a language understanding (LU) system in a manner that is based on a particular endpoint mechanism from which the linguistic item originated. The LU system may include an endpoint-independent subsystem, an endpoint-dependent subsystem, and a ranking component. The endpoint-independent subsystem interprets the linguistic item in a manner that is independent of the particular endpoint mechanism. The endpoint-dependent subsystem interprets the linguistic item in a manner that is dependent on the particular endpoint mechanism. The ranking component generates final interpretation results based on intermediate results generated by the endpoint-independent subsystem and the endpoint-dependent subsystem, e.g., by identifying the most likely interpretation of the linguistic item.