AFinLA Autumn symposium 2022

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Talk: Making sense of natural speech: prosodic and syntactic cues in L2 speech segmentation

Authors: Aleksandra Dobrego, Alena Konina, Anna Mauranen

Language arranges itself along a continuous line, either in time (speech) or in space (text). As working memory is presumably limited to four units (Cowan 2001), it goes largely uncontested that language processing must proceed in chunks (Christiansen and Chater 2016). We report two experiments of segmentation in natural, spontaneous speech. We investigate how language experience affects natural speech segmentation and how these segmentation patterns may be reflected in the brain.
In the first experiment, we tested intuitive chunking in L1 and L2 speakers of English, assuming that L1 speakers have more extensive experience of English than L2 speakers. We asked participants to listen to extracts, follow the transcript on an iPad, mark boundaries by tapping the screen and answer a comprehension question after each extract (adopted from Vetchinnikova et al. 2017). The perceived boundaries resulted in 'chunks'. We assessed the participants’ agreement and segmentation strategies and found that prosody is what both groups rely on most, with L1 users using it slightly more. Moreover, both groups performed alike in the degree to which they converged on boundaries and successfully answered comprehension questions, suggesting that language experience has a slight effect on cue utilization but does not affect the ultimate outcome of natural speech segmentation.
In the second experiment, we went on to investigate the roles of prosody and syntax in L2 speech segmentation using MEEG recordings in healthy adults. The objective was to test how chunk boundaries and segmentation cues might be reflected in brain activity. Participants listened to extracts of natural speech from the same database as in Experiment 1, again followed by comprehension questions. We inserted 2-second gaps into each extract, some at chunk boundaries obtained from Experiment 1, others within chunks, and recorded brain activity during these two contrasting types of pauses. Pauses at chunk boundaries elicited a CPS in sources over bilateral auditory cortices. By contrast, pauses within a chunk elicited a biphasic emitted potential with sources in the bilateral primary and non-primary auditory areas with right-hemispheric dominance and were perceived as interruptions. Chunk boundaries and non-boundaries thus elicit distinct evoked activity in the brain. Moreover, chunk boundaries were influenced by both prosody and syntactic structure, whereas chunk interruptions by prosody only, suggesting that the integrity of the intonation contour may be considered an essential property of the perceived chunk.
Aikajakso28 lokak. 2022
Tapahtuman otsikkoAFinLA Autumn symposium 2022
Tapahtuman tyyppiKonferenssi
SijaintiHelsinki, SuomiNäytä kartalla
Tunnustuksen arvoKansallinen