As research in speech production becomes more integrated with linguistic theory, it has become increasingly clear that segmental articulation cannot be understood independently of linguistic structure. Prosodic structure - prominence and phrasal organization - is one aspect of high-level linguistic organization and its effects are seen to pervade low-level articulatory behavior. The long-term objective of the proposed research program is to understand how linguistic structure conditions the spatiotemporal realization of articulatory movement during speaking. Specifically, we investigate the relation between one aspect of prosodic structure - phrasal structure - and the control and coordination of articulation within a dynamical systems model of speech production. We adopt a three-pronged approach: experimental, theoretical, and computational. Experiments using articulatory kinematic data and concomitant computational modeling of their results will provide a profile of the manner in which patterning of articulatory gestures is shaped by prosodic context. Understanding the organization of these units of speech production as a function of the informational composition of utterances is critical to developing a unified account of the how abstract linguistic structure is communicated in spoken language. Both language acquisition by infants and language breakdown in impaired populations suggests an important connection between prosody and the cognitive control of spoken language. Developmental data on the acquisition and perception of prosody firmly indicate that the realization of prosodic structure constitutes learned and language-specific knowledge that interfaces with segmental realization. Furthermore, adult speech production deficits due to neurological disorders are often characterized by a diversity of prosodic and articulatory irregularities. The outlined research program on the articulatory production of prosody is thus important to our understanding of both language acquisition and language breakdown.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
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Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
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Shekim, Lana O
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University of Southern California
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Los Angeles
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