Learning of adjectival word meaning through tone of voice [Abstract]
Jesse, A., Reinisch, E., & Nygaard, L. C.
Learning of adjectival word meaning through tone of voice [Abstract]. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 128
Speakers express word meaning through systematic but non-canonical
acoustic variation of tone of voice (ToV), i.e., variation of speaking rate,
pitch, vocal effort, or loudness. Words are, for example, pronounced at a
higher pitch when referring to small than to big referents. In the present
study, we examined whether listeners can use ToV to learn the meaning of
novel adjectives (e.g., “blicket”). During training, participants heard sentences
such as “Can you find the blicket one?” spoken with ToV representing
hot-cold, strong-weak, and big-small. Participants’ eye movements to
two simultaneously shown objects with properties representing the relevant
two endpoints (e.g., an elephant and an ant for big-small) were monitored.
Assignment of novel adjectives to endpoints was counterbalanced across
participants. During test, participants heard the sentences spoken with a neutral
ToV, while seeing old or novel picture pairs varying along the same dimensions
(e.g., a truck and a car for big-small). Participants had to click on
the adjective’s referent. As evident from eye movements, participants did
not infer the intended meaning during first exposure, but learned the meaning
with the help of ToV during training. At test listeners applied this knowledge
to old and novel items even in the absence of informative ToV.