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PhD Defence Susanne Brouwer on December 20
On December 20, 2010, Susanne Brouwer will defend her thesis, called 'Processing strongly reduced forms in casual speech'. The defence will take place in the Aula of the Radboud University Nijmegen at 10:30.
December 17, 2010
In casual speech, people often use reduced forms of words. They change or delete segments, syllables and even whole words. For example, a Dutch speaker may say the word beneden 'downwards' once in its canonical pronunciation /bəneːdə/ and once as /məneːə/.
'Most listeners and speakers are even unaware that reduced forms occur so often in conversational speech', Susanne Brouwer states in the introduction to her thesis. 'Although reduced forms can deviate strongly from their full forms, listeners typically understand each other without any difficulty.'
Different from laboratory speech
How do listeners process all these strongly reduced forms? Brouwer conducted several experiments to study this phenomenon, which is known as speech reduction. In one of her studies, she showed that listeners penalise mismatches less strongly when hearing reduced than laboratory speech. 'This demonstrates that listening to reduced forms influences the dynamics of spoken word recognition', she concludes. 'Spoken word recognition during casual speech thus differs from spoken word recognition during laboratory speech.'
Exploit phonetic detail
Strongly reduced forms in casual speech can initially activate competitors which are similar to the phonological surface form of the reduction. However, listeners can exploit fine phonetic detail to reconstruct canonical forms from reduced ones.
Discourse context appears to affect the recognition of reduced forms differently than the recognition of canonical forms. A strong contextual match with the wider discourse context is more important for the recognition of reduced forms than for canonical spoken words in natural settings.
Brouwers' research provides new insights into the processing of strongly reduced forms in casual speech. 'My thesis took an important step towards bridging the gap between tightly-controlled laboratory studies and real-world speech communication.'