Linguistics/CRBLM joint talk, 3/15 – Mara Breen

The linguistics Department at McGill and the CRBLM jointly invite you to a talk by Prof. Mara Breen (Psychology, Holyoke College). There’s be a social dinner in the evening, please let me know in case you’re interested in attending!
Title: Hierarchical linguistic metric structure in speaking, listening, and reading
Friday, March 15, 3:30-5:00pm
Location: McGill College 2001, Room 461
ABSTRACT: In this talk, I will describe results from three experiments exploring how hierarchical timing regularities in language are realized by speakers, listeners, and readers. First, using a corpus of productions of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat—a metrically and phonologically regular children’s book, we show that speakers’ word durations and intensities are accurately predicted by models of linguistic and musical meter, respectively, demonstrating that listeners to these texts receive consistent acoustic cues to hierarchical metric structure. In a second experiment, we recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) as participants listened to an isochronous, non-intensity-varying text-to-speech rendition of The Cat in the Hat. Pilot ERP results reveal electrophysiological indices of metric processing, demonstrating top-down realization of metric structure even in the absence of explicit prosodic cues. In a third experiment, we recorded ERPs while participants silently read metrically regular rhyming couplets where the final word sometimes mismatched the metric or prosodic context. These mismatches elicited ERP patterns similar to neurocognitive responses observed in listening experiments. In sum, these results demonstrate similarities in perceived and simulated hierarchical timing processes in listening and reading and help explain the processes by which listeners use predictable metric structure to facilitate speech segmentation and comprehension.

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