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Prosody conveys speaker’s intentions: Acoustic cues for speech act perception

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Hellbernd,  Nele
Otto Hahn Group Neural Bases of Intonation in Speech, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Sammler,  Daniela
Otto Hahn Group Neural Bases of Intonation in Speech, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Hellbernd, N., & Sammler, D. (2016). Prosody conveys speaker’s intentions: Acoustic cues for speech act perception. Journal of Memory and Language, 88, 70-86. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2016.01.001.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-5ACD-2
Abstract
Action-theoretic views of language posit that the recognition of others’ intentions is key to successful interpersonal communication. Yet, speakers do not always code their intentions literally, raising the question of which mechanisms enable interlocutors to exchange communicative intents. The present study investigated whether and how prosody—the vocal tone—contributes to the identification of “unspoken” intentions. Single (non-)words were spoken with six intonations representing different speech acts—as carriers of communicative intentions. This corpus was acoustically analyzed (Experiment 1), and behaviorally evaluated in two experiments (Experiments 2 and 3). The combined results show characteristic prosodic feature configurations for different intentions that were reliably recognized by listeners. Interestingly, identification of intentions was not contingent on context (single words), lexical information (non-words), and recognition of the speaker’s emotion (valence and arousal). Overall, the data demonstrate that speakers’ intentions are represented in the prosodic signal which can, thus, determine the success of interpersonal communication.