The study investigates how early phrasal F0 is planned in experimentally controlled but spontaneous utterances. Phonetic evidence indicates speakers preplan F0 declination (e.g., Yuan and Liberman, 2014). The phonetic F0 data was combined with eye movements to explore how well F0 of phrase-initial energy peaks (also F0 declination) relates to conceptual and phonological levels of planning in two typologically different languages – English and Estonian. Speakers described pictures of simple events with sentences of varying length (e.g., The girl is hanging the pink shirt/ the shirt with ladybirds vs. The girl is hanging a shirt). Importantly, the results showed that speech onset delays and F0 peaks were both affected by the length of the last-mentioned noun phrases (patient names). Also, the complexity of patient names influenced the very early time window of sentence planning (0-400 ms from picture onset): proportion of fixations to agent characters and duration of gazes decreased together with the complexity of patient names mentioned last in the sentences. Overall, the results indicate that speakers of both languages might prepare quite large chunks of upcoming sentences before starting to speak. The study reveals that F0 declination is surely sensitive to the phonological levels of encoding but also to the conceptual complexity at the higher level of planning (message encoding).
Yuan, J. and Liberman, M. (2014). F0 declination in English and Mandarin broadcast news speech. Speech Communication, 65:67–74.