14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999

Prosodic Properties, Perception, and Brain Activity

Karsten Steinhauer, Kai Alter, Angela D. Friederici

Max-Planck-Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Leipzig, Germany

This paper investigates how differences in syntactic structure influence the speaker's prosodic realization of temporarily ambiguous utterances and whether the respective prosodic information guides the listener's sentence comprehension. Exhaustive acoustic analyses of the speech signals as well as behavioral and event-related brain potential (ERP) data of 56 listeners revealed the following results. 1. As predicted by certain theories of syntax-prosody mapping, syntactic differences led to early characteristic changes in the prosodic pattern. 2. Prosodic differences involved word duration, pause insertion, pitch contours, and the loudness function of the speech signals. 3. The disambiguating prosodic cues were immediately decoded by the listeners and prevented them from initial misanalyses typically observed during reading. 4. The processing of Intonational Phrase (IPh) boundaries was reflected by a specific brain response in the ERP. 5. In the presence of other prosodic cues, pause insertion was completely dispensable for the marking and perception of IPh boundaries.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Steinhauer, Karsten / Alter, Kai / Friederici, Angela D. (1999): "Prosodic properties, perception, and brain activity", In ICPhS-14, 227-230.