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Tone of voice as a cue to word learning

To express emotions, speakers vary their tone of voice (ToV). In expressive (e.g., infant-directed) speech, ToV is also related to the properties of referent objects. Words are, for example, pronounced at a higher pitch when referring to small than to big referents. We examined whether listeners... Full description

1st Person: Reinisch, Eva
Additional Persons: Jesse, Alexandra; Nygaard, Lynne C.
Event: The 53. Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen [TeaP 2011], Halle/Saale, Germany
2011-03-16/2011-03-18, Halle/Saale, Germany
Type of Publication: Presentation
Published: 2011-03-16
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Summary: To express emotions, speakers vary their tone of voice (ToV). In expressive (e.g., infant-directed) speech, ToV is also related to the properties of referent objects. Words are, for example, pronounced at a higher pitch when referring to small than to big referents. We examined whether listeners use ToV to learn the meaning of novel adjectives. During training, participants heard sentences such as "Can you find the 'blicket' one?" spoken with a ToV representing hot-cold, strong-weak, or big-small. Participants' eye movements to two simultaneously shown objects representing the relevant dimensions (e.g., elephant=>big, ant=>small) were monitored. During test, participants identified the referents of sentences spoken in a neutral ToV, while seeing familiar or new picture pairs (e.g., a truck and a car for big-small). Participants learned the meaning with the help of ToV during training. At test they applied this knowledge in the absence of informative ToV even to new referents.

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