Cognitive constraints on advance planning of sentence intonation

Nele Ots, Kristof Strijkers
2021 PLoS ONE  
Pitch peaks tend to be higher at the beginning of longer than shorter sentences (e.g., 'A farmer is pulling donkeys' vs 'A farmer is pulling a donkey and goat'), whereas pitch valleys at the ends of sentences are rather constant for a given speaker. These data seem to imply that speakers avoid dropping their voice pitch too low by planning the height of sentence-initial pitch peaks prior to speaking. However, the length effect on sentence-initial pitch peaks appears to vary across different
more » ... s of sentences, speakers and languages. Therefore, the notion that speakers plan sentence intonation in advance due to the limitations in low voice pitch leaves part of the data unexplained. Consequently, this study suggests a complementary cognitive account of length-dependent pitch scaling. In particular, it proposes that the sentence-initial pitch raise in long sentences is related to high demands on mental resources during the early stages of sentence planning. To tap into the cognitive underpinnings of planning sentence intonation, this study adopts the methodology of recording eye movements during a picture description task, as the eye movements are the established approximation of the real-time planning processes. Measures of voice pitch (Fundamental Frequency) and incrementality (eye movements) are used to examine the relationship between (verbal) working memory (WM), incrementality of sentence planning and the height of sentence-initial pitch peaks.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0259343 pmid:34784351 pmcid:PMC8594795 fatcat:jb4z7gehinejzh27lkqeafr3hm