We are happy to announce the next talk in the phonology colloquium by Nele Ots (Goethe Universität):

Title: Conceptual and linguistic influences on sentence intonation: evidence from English and Estonian languages
Room: IG 4.301
Date: Wed 11.12.19
Time: 16-18

Phonetic corpus studies have found that phrase-initial F0 peaks correlate with duration of intonation phrases, indicating that speakers are able to anticipate the length of their utterances already before the speech onset. The current view on sentence planning is that while conceptual and syntactic planning processes can be broad, comprising larger parts of upcoming sentences, phonological encoding needs to evolve word by word – incrementally. In relation to sentence production, the phonetic observation of F0 raises a question: at which stage are the global parameters of sentence intonation decided in speakers‘ minds? The aim of the study was to empirically verify the causal relationship between the F0 peaks and the duration of intonation phrases, and to explore the online sentence formulation in two typologically different languages – English and Estonian. Speakers described pictures of simple events while their speech and eye-movements were recorded. The results showed that phrase-initial F0 was higher in longer descriptions (e.g., The girl is hanging the pink shirt/ the shirt with ladybirds) than in shorter descriptions (e.g., The girl is hanging a shirt). Also, the speech onsets correlated with the complexity of the second-mentioned noun phrases (NP): sentences containing adjective phrases (pink shirt) or prepositional phrases (shirt with ladybirds) were initiated later than the sentences with simple NPs (a shirt). Finally, the complexity of NPs also influenced the time course of sentence planning. In the early time window of sentence planning (0-400 ms from picture onset), speakers gazed more frequently at agent characters when their descriptions mentioned simple NPs, whereas they gazed more frequently at patient characters when their utterances comprised complex NPs. Thus, the complexity of the second-mentioned NPs influenced the phrase-initial F0, speech latency and the early eye movements, indicating that the speakers anticipated the production of more complex NPs towards the end of their utterances very early before the speech onset. The results demonstrate that F0 peaks are sensitive to the linguistic weight (number of words or syllables in the noun phrases) but also to the conceptual complexity at the higher level of planning (message encoding).