Linguistics Department

Colloquium - Linda Wheeldon (U. of Birmingham) "Planning spoken sentences: the role of prosodic units"

Mon, April 15, 2013 | CLA 1.302B

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

The aim of this research is to investigate how an ordered string of words is transformed into a rhythmic continuous spoken utterance. One psycholinguistic theory of speech production has been proposed in which prosodic units are given an explicit role. Levelt (1989, Levelt, Roelofs & Meyer, 1999) claim that the unit of phonological encoding is the phonological word and that lexical words are restructured into phonological words prior to articulation. I will report a series speech production experiments designed to investigate the parsing of English phrases into phonological words. The experiments replicate and extend the Dutch findings of Wheeldon and Lahiri (1997, 2002) who demonstrated that in a delayed sentence production task, speech onset latencies were a function of the number of phonological words in a sentence (see Sternberg, 1978, 1980). In contrast, in an on-line production task, latencies for the same stimuli were a function of the length of the initial phonological word of the sentence. Wheeldon, Malpass and Lahiri (in prep) tested the delayed and on-line production of simple sentences in English that comprised differing numbers of phonological words. Our findings partially replicate the Dutch findings of Wheeldon and Lahiri (1997, 2002); In the delayed production task latencies were a function of the number of phonological words, whereas in the on-line production task they were a function of initial phonological word length. However, the delayed production task was affected by the nature of the sentence initial pronoun, with “I” behaving differently from “he”. The data support a prosodic rather than a syntactic based algorithm for phonological word formation.

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