P* Group, 2/23 – Wei Zhang

At this week’s P group meeting, Feb 23 12 pm,  Wei will lead a discussion on the paper “Individual empathy levels affect gradual intonation-meaning mapping: The case of biased questions in Salerno Italian” (Orrico & D’Imperio, 2020).

Abstract: The paper investigates the interplay between intonational cues and individual variability in the perceptual assessment of speakers’ epistemic bias in Salerno Italian yes-no questions. We present a perception experiment in which we manipulated pitch span within the nuclear configuration (both nuclear accent and boundary tone) to predict degree of perceived positive bias (i.e., expected positive answer) to yes-no question stimuli. Our results show that a wider pitch span within the nuclear region predicts a higher degree of perceived positive bias, while negative bias is predicted by narrow pitch span. Crucially, though, two interacting sources of listener variability were uncovered, i.e., prolonged exposure to a non-native dialect as well as degree of empathy (i.e., Empathy Quotient, EQ). Exposure to non-native phonological systems was found to affect the way pitch span is mapped onto perceived epistemic bias, through category interference, though mediated by EQ levels. Specifically, high-empathy listeners were more affected by degree of non-native dialect exposure. EQ scores were hence found to have an effect on gradual span manipulation by interacting with the dialect exposure effect. These results advance our understanding of the intonation-meaning mapping by taking into account both the impact of gradual phonetic cues on meaning processing as well as uncovering sources of cognitive variability at the perceiver’s level

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