Signal-based and expectation-based factors in the perception of prosodic prominence

Jennifer Sandra Cole, Mark Hasegawa-Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The perception of prosodic prominence in spontaneous speech is investigated through an online task of prosody transcription using untrained listeners. Prominence is indexed through a probabilistic prominence score assigned to each word based on the proportion of transcribers who perceived the word as prominent. Correlation and regression analyses between perceived prominence, acoustic measures and measures of a word's information status are conducted to test three hypotheses: (i) prominence perception is signal-driven, influenced by acoustic factors reflecting speakers' productions; (ii) perception is expectation-driven, influenced by the listener's prior experience of word frequency and repetition; (iii) any observed influence of word frequency on perceived prominence is mediated through the acoustic signal. Results show correlates of perceived prominence in acoustic measures, in word log-frequency and in the repetition index of a word, consistent with both signal-driven and expectation-driven hypotheses of prominence perception. But the acoustic correlates of perceived prominence differ somewhat from the correlates of word frequency, suggesting an independent effect of frequency on prominence perception. A speech processing account is offered as a model of signal-driven and expectation-driven effects on prominence perception, where prominence ratings are a function of the ease of lexical processing, as measured through the activation levels of lexical and sub-lexical units.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-452
Number of pages28
JournalLaboratory Phonology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2010


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