My main research interest lies in the nature and time course of brain responses to prosodic information at the micro and macro scales. I investigate neuronal correlates, indexing the extraction and integration of prosodic features that encode meaning at the lexical, sentence, and discourse levels. Below is a list of my main research lines, ordered according to their relevance.
1. Neurobiology and cognition of information structure
During the discourse, interlocutors arrange linguistic input in different information blocks to differentiate between given and new information. This dynamic information packaging process is referred to as Information Structure (IS). Linguistic devices that mark IS are diverse ranging from prosodic and morpho-syntactic marking to semantic/pragmatic means. The aim of this research project is to investigate diverse marking strategies by studying populations speaking typologically distinct languages.
This project is concerned with the prosodic marking, which is crucial for signaling the focus (new) information. Focus information is typically pitch-accented, while given information tends to undergo de-accentuation. Pitch accent is, however, also used phonologically as in lexical contrasts. Swedish, for instance, makes a distinction between two pitch accents at the lexical level (and+en1 ‘duck’ vs ande+n2 ‘ghost’). The objective is to show how these lexical and discourse functions of prosody are processed in parallel, using behavioral and electrophysiological measures. The target languages are Swedish and Turkish.
In conversation, speakers use discourse markers (DM) to manage topicality. In an ongoing EEG study, we investigate systematic associations between the presence of DMs and prosody, and their functions as predictive devices in the level of discourse in Spanish. This work builds on Mercedes Villalobos Cardozo's PhD project, carried out during her secondment at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
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2. Categorical and continuous aspects of speech signal
Categorical and continuous aspects of the speech signal remain central and yet controversial in the fields of phonetics and phonology. This division has particularly been relevant to the unraveling of diverse communicative functions of prosody. Prosody conveys not only lexical meanings encoded as discrete structures, but also signal post-lexical meanings at the phrasal level, allowing gradient pragmatic variations. The aim of this research project is to investigate physiological and psychological processes underlying the categorical and gradient uses of prosody.
The goal of this project is to address the crosstalk between categorical tone and gradient intonation from a wide range of perspectives, including general and applied linguistics, speech and hearing sciences, and cognitive psychology and neuroscience.
The present project aims to contribute to the understanding of the lexical status of tone by comparing non-tonal, semi-tonal, and tonal languages in a Sequence Recall Task (SRT).
To understand the nature of lexical access, it is important to identify the kind of information that is stored in the long-term memory and to study how the brain uses such information. Our previous research not only established neural correlates of lexical stress but also confirmed the presence of long-term memory traces for prosodic information in the brain. The present study aims to replicate results for Dutch.