7th May 2014 4:30pm
Checkland Building, Falmer Campus
The School of Humanities Research Lecture Series in Linguistics, Language and Discourse programme.
Understanding the Music of Speech: a research project.
Dr Tim Wharton, University of Brighton.
The way we say the words we say helps us convey our intended meanings. Differences in the relative pitch, timing and loudness of syllables help direct a listener’s attention to the most salient points of a message. Subtle changes in the tone and quality of voice, and the range of pitch variation we use, convey attitudinal information and information about our physical or emotional state. These melodic contours and rhythmic patterns – the music of speech – are known collectively as prosody.
Our work begins with the observation that the question of the ‘connection’ between prosody and music, often remarked upon informally, deserves to be addressed systematically. The human voice probably was the first musical instrument and evidence suggests that the relationship between perception of speech prosody and music is a highly complex matter. In her ‘speech-to-song illusion’, psychologist Diana Deutsch looped a short segment of regular spoken speech. On repeated listening, subjects hear it as sung, rather than spoken.
At the heart of this project, then, lies the idea that we can learn more about the interpretation of prosody from what we know about the interpretation of music. Our research will augment existing work in phonetics and phonology with a unique and innovative combination of concepts and methods from cognitive pragmatics the theoretical and empirical study of how utterances are understood, and from experimental disciplines concerned with perceptual and psychological processing of complex auditory signals such as music and speech.