June 10, 2015

Guest speaker: Francisco Torreira (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)

We are pleased to welcome Francisco Torreira of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. Francisco received his Ph.D. in 2011 from Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. He is primarily interested in phonology, pragmatics, and conversation analysis: his research touches on an eclectic range of topics and methods.

His talk for our department is entitled "Unraveling the time course of language production in conversational interaction", and it will take place on Thursday, June 18 at 2:30 PM (sharp) in SS 2120.

In conversation, turn transitions between speakers often occur smoothly, most typically within a time window of 100 to 300 milliseconds. Since speech planning usually takes over half a second (ca. 600 ms for picture naming, Indefrey & Levelt, 2004; ca. 1500 ms for simple sentences, Griffin & Bock, 2000), it appears that participants in conversation often plan their utterances in overlap with their interlocutor’s turns. It is not clear, however, how they manage to launch their own turns in a timely manner (i.e., without excessive overlaps or long silent gaps). On the basis of psycholinguistic experiments (e.g., De Ruiter, Mitterer, and Enfield, 2006), and against a long tradition of observational studies, it has been argued that participants in conversation rely mainly on anticipating morphosyntactic structure when timing and producing their turns, and that they do not need to make use of prosodic information in order to achieve smooth floor transitions. In this talk, I will present a series of new psycholinguistic, phonetic, and corpus studies challenging this view (Bögels & Torreira, 2015; Levinson & Torreira, 2015; Torreira et al., 2015), and sketch an efficient turn-taking mechanism of language production involving two separate processes: a) early planning of content, based among other things on morphosyntactic prediction, and often carried out in overlap with the incoming turn, and b) late launching of articulation, mainly based on the identification of turn-final prosodic cues (e.g., phrase-final melodic patterns, final lengthening, sharp intensity drops).

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