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Neuropragmatics of prosody: From contour to meaning


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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Sammler, D. (2018). Neuropragmatics of prosody: From contour to meaning. Talk presented at MAMPF-Kolloquium. Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. 2018-11-21 - 2018-11-21.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-8A2F-F
During verbal communication, humans regularly decode not only what is said but also why. Pragmatic theory posits that it is particularly the why – the communicative intention (illocution) of speakers – that drives the recipient’s reactions (Grice, 1957). Intonational phonologists (Bolinger, 1986) and developmental psychologists (Malloch & Trevarthen, 2009) have long been aware of the importance of prosody for communicating social-relational (illocutionary) meaning. How the brain extracts meaning from voice tone remains, however, poorly understood. Here, I will integrate previous neurofunctional accounts of language with novel evidence from behavioural, neuroimaging, brain stimulation and cross-cultural studies to reveal the complex neurocognitive architecture of prosody perception in speech. I will show (i) dual streams for prosody in the right hemisphere, (ii) sensorimotor contributions to prosody perception, (iii) the relevance of social cognition for the extraction of meaning from prosody, and (iv) cross-cultural misunderstandings of social-relational, prosodic meaning. Taken together, this research proposes the interaction of several complementary mechanisms during prosody perception and offers a fresh look on the neural basis of interpersonal communication and mutual understanding.