Parsing the ambiguity of casual speech: “He was like” or “He’s like”? [Abstract]

Brenner, D., Warner, N., Ernestus, M., & Tucker, B. V. (2011). Parsing the ambiguity of casual speech: “He was like” or “He’s like”? [Abstract]. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 129(4 Pt. 2), 2683.
Paper presented at The 161th Meeting Acoustical Society of America, Seattle, Washington, 23-27 May 2011. Reduction in casual speech can create ambiguity, e.g., “he was” can sound like “he’s.” Before quotative “like” “so she’s/she was like…”, it was found that there is little accurate acoustic information about the distinction in the signal. This work examines what types of information acoustics of the target itself, speech rate, coarticulation, and syntax/semantics listeners use to recognize such reduced function words. We compare perception studies presenting the targets auditorily with varying amounts of context, presenting the context without the targets, and a visual study presenting context in written form. Given primarily discourse information visual or auditory context only, subjects are strongly biased toward past, reflecting the use of quotative “like” for reporting past speech. However, if the target itself is presented, the direction of bias reverses, indicating that listeners favor acoustic information within the target which is reduced, sounding like the shorter, present form over almost any other source of information. Furthermore, when the target is presented auditorily with surrounding context, the bias shifts slightly toward the direction shown in the orthographic or auditory-no-target experiments. Thus, listeners prioritize acoustic information within the target when present, even if that information is misleading, but they also take discourse information into account.
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