Breen in linguistics colloquium, Friday 10/30 at 3:30pm

Mara Breen (Mount Holyoak) will give a colloquium talk in linguistics on Friday, 10/30 at 3:30pm. The title and abstract are below: Registration link is here:

Hierarchical linguistic metric structure in speaking, listening, and reading

In this talk, I will describe results from experiments exploring how hierarchical timing regularities in language are realized by speakers, listeners, and readers. First, using a corpus of productions of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat—a highly metrically and phonologically regular children’s book, we show that speakers’ word durations and intensities are accurately predicted by models of linguistic and musical meter, respectively, demonstrating that listeners to these texts receive consistent acoustic cues to hierarchical metric structure. In a second experiment, we recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) as participants listened to an aprosodic production of The Cat in the Hat. ERP results reveal separable electrophysiological indices of metric and phrasal processing, demonstrating top-down realization of metric structure even in the absence of explicit prosodic cues. In a third experiment, we recorded ERPs while participants silently read metrically regular rhyming couplets where the final word sometimes mismatched the metric or prosodic context. These mismatches elicited ERP patterns similar to responses observed in listening experiments. In sum, these results demonstrate similarities in perceived and simulated hierarchical timing processes in listening and reading and help explain the processes by which listeners use predictable metric structure to facilitate speech segmentation and comprehension.