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Research

Research lines

Intonational and gestural meaning in human languages
This research project investigates the range of semantic and pragmatic meanings conveyed by prosody and gesture across languages. Our results show that (a) intonation and gestural patterns in some languages encode similar meanings to those encoded by other components of grammar (morphosyntax, pragmatic markers); and (b) they can interact in complex ways. Given the current lack of unified treatment of intonational meaning within the linguistic community, we proposed potential advances related to the full integration of intonational/gestural meaning into dynamic and multidimensional models of meaning (e.g., Prieto 2015, Wiley Interdiscip. Rev.).
 

 

Developing standards for Prosodic Labeling: The International Prosodic Alphabet (IPrA)

One of the collaborative research objectives of the group is to help in the development of international standards for the transcription of prosody. In order to advance in the goal of providing international standard tools for prosodic labelling, together with J.I. Hualde,  S.-Ah Jun and the IPrA Focus group we are working on a full proposal of an International Prosodic Alphabet (IPrA), originally outlined by Hualde & Prieto (2016, Laboratory Phonology)..
   

Audiovisual Prosody

It is well-known that a fundamental aspect of successful human communication resides not only in our ability to use structural and lexical patterns, but also prosody and our body and facial gestures.Research on prosody has mainly focused on the acoustic aspects of speech. However, sound and gesture are strongly correlated. For instance, visual cues are highly important in turn-taking, in expressing emotions and attitudes, in the level of reliability of an answer, or in structuring information. Our research on audiovisual prosody aims at analyzing communicative body cues that partners send to each other when interacting, such as body gestures, head movements or facial expressions, and to study the contribution of visual and verbal prosody to the interpretation of prosody. One of the goals is to study the relationship between gesture, prosody, and linguistic structures, and to what extent gestural actions and prosodic structures interact with or shape language structures, its processing and use in communication. This research makes use of both production and perception experiments for the analysis of coherent and non-coherent visual and prosody information (applying the McGurk effect to prosody).
 

 

Prosody and gesture as bootstrapping mechanisms in language development

This project aims at testing the pragmatic bootstrapping effects of prosodic and gestural patterns in first language development. We hypothesize that patterns of gesture-prosody integration in preschool children provide a window onto early development of pragmatic knowledge. At present, our results indicate that: (a) prosody and gesture patterns appear in early stages of language development; and (b) they are predictive of the appearance of later language abilities.
 

 

Cognitive benefits of gesture-speech semantic and temporal integration

We know that an appropriate use of prosodic and gestural strategies is essential in the communication process. This research project investigates (a) how prosodic and gestural patterns are coordinated from a temporal and semantic point of view in natural discourse; and (b) the benefits of gesture-speech integration patterns on cognitive processing. The first results indicate that gesture-speech integration patterns increase the attention and recall levels of the listener and provide beneficial effects in general inferencing tasks, enhancing the comprehension of a speaker's message.

 

 

 

Cognitive processing of prosody

One question that has long captured the interest of cognitive psychologists, media researchers and linguists is how the brain processes the mediated messages and particularly the speech. Research in processing media has shown that how someone says something is as relevant as what he/she says. Some authors have demonstrated that prosody is a determining factor for the cognitive processing of messages. If the appropriate use of prosodic strategies is essential in the communication process, it is possible to conclude that the study on the perception and processing of prosody is crucial for understanding how the human cognitive system processes the messages. Therefore, the overall objective of this project is to determine how different prosodic strategies applied to audiovisual messages can provoke perception differences and modify the attention and memory levels of the listener.

 

 

Prosodic and gestural communication as bootstrapping mechanisms of language development. Testing a new treatment paradigm for ASD and LI developmental disorder

The innovative nature of this project resides in testing whether training in comprehending prosody and gesture has the potential to serve as a tool for intervention in populations with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Language Impairment (LI). We will carry out a randomized control trial intervention study to experimentally test the value of prosodic and gestural training in promoting language and emotional development. To clinically test pragmatic improvement, behavioral measures will be recorded before and after treatment using offline and online methods. The outcome of the study will represent the proof-of-concept of a clinically tested audiovisual interactive tool intended for promoting the development of pragmatic abilities.

 

Before their first words (RecerCaixa Project 2014)

During the first year of their lives, infants are still not producing their first words. However, they can communicate with their caregivers using the so-called language precursors. The aim of this project was to assess the extent to which these patterns predict the infant’s later linguistic development. Our results indicate that the use of gestural and prosodic patterns are essential in language development.

 

Scaffolding language: neurobiological responses to gesture-speech integration in native and second language speech

This project will investigate the potential benefits of gesture-prosody integration in dealing with speech in a second language. We  hypothesized that patterns of gesture-prosody integration can help make up for more impoverished patterns of speech recognition in second languages. At present, we are performing two brain ERP studies to compare the neural activity related to gesture-prosody integration of a native language compared to that of a second language. Our hypothesis is that the weight of neural activation related to gesture and prosodic processing will be stronger in a second language. This project will also investigate the behavioral benefits of gesture-speech integration in educational settings in a foreign language classroom.

 

 

Current funded projects

Untitled Document

  • Intonational and gestural meaning in language.
    (MINECO, Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad / Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness; ref.: FFI2015-66533-P; 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2018).
    Investigadora principal: Pilar Prieto.
    Membres: Lluïsa Astruc, Joan Borràs-Comes, Teresa Cabré, Eva Estebas, Santiago González-Fuente, Alfonso Igualada, Evi Kiagia, Olga Kushch, Iris Hübscher, Maria Ohannesian.
    Amount of the subvention: 60.000 €
  • Grup de Recerca Consolidat (GRC) Grup d’Estudis de Prosòdia (GrEP).
    (Pla de Recerca de Catalunya: 2014 SGR _ 925, 01/01/14 - 31/12/16).
    Investigadora principal: Pilar Prieto.
    Membres: Lourdes Aguilar, Joan Borràs-Comes, Carme de-la-Mota, Emma Rodero, Yurena María Gutiérrez, Santiago González-Fuente, Núria Esteve Gibert, Alfonso Igualada, Olga Kushch, Iris Hübscher, Rafèu Sichel.
    Amount of the subvention: 14.000 €

 

Previous funded projects

Untitled Document

  • Juguem a comunicar millor! La millora de la competència prosòdica com a via d'integració educativa i d'inclusió social de l'alumnat amb necessitats educatives especials derivades de la discapacitat.
    (RECERCAIXA, 2013, project awarded by Obra Social 'La Caixa', February 28, 2014 - February 28, 2016).
    Investigadora principal: Lourdes Aguilar
    Amount of the subvention: 77.642,60 €
  • Gestures, prosody and linguistic structure.
    (Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad [Ref.: BFU2012-31995], 01/01/2013- 31/12/2015).
    Investigadora principal: Pilar Prieto.
    Membres: Lluïsa Astruc, Meghan Armstrong, Joan Borràs-Comes, Teresa Cabré, Eva Estebas, Núria Esteve, Santiago González-Fuente, María Ohannesian, Maria del Mar Vanrell.
    Amount of the subvention: 60.000 €
  • Prosodic strategies to improve the attention and recall of a listener exposed to an auditory stimulus
    (European Union [PIOF-GA-2012-328636], 2013 – 2016).
    Investigadora principal: Emma Rodero.
    Amount of the subvention: 313.080 €
  • Els precursors del llenguatge. Una guia TIC per a pares i educadors.
    (RECERCAIXA 2012, project awarded by Obra Social ‘La Caixa’, February 28, 2013 – February 28, 2015).
    Investigadora principal: Pilar Prieto.
    Membres: Laura Bosch, Núria Esteve, Alfonso Igualada, Ferran Pons, Jorgina Solé.
    Amount of the subvention: 74.917,61 €
  • Grup de Recerca Emergent (GRE) Grup d’Estudis de Prosòdia (GrEP)
    (Pla de Recerca de Catalunya: 2009 SGR-701, 29/09/09 - 30/​04/14)
    Investigadora principal: Pilar Prieto.
    Membres: Lourdes Aguilar, Meghan Armstrong, Lluïsa Astruc, Joan Borràs-Comes, Verònica Crespo-Sendra, Núria Esteve Gibert, Carme de-la-Mota, Eva Estebas, Rafèu Sichel-Bazin, Maria del Mar Vanrell.
    Amount of the subvention: 33.600 €
  • Modelización de los fenómenos prosódicos del español y catalán a partir del corpus Glissando.
    (Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia FFI 2011-29559-C02-02, January 2011 - December 2013)
    Investigadora principal: Lourdes Aguilar
    Membres subprojecte UAB: Mercedes Cabrera, Carme de-la-Mota, Eva Estebas, Francisco Vizcaíno.
  • The role of tonal scaling and tonal alignment in distinguishing intonational categories in Catalan and Spanish.
    (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación [Ref.: FFI2009-07648/FILO], January 1st, 2010 - December 31st, 2012)
    Investigadora principal: Pilar Prieto.
    Membres: Lluïsa Astruc, Meghan Armstrong, Joan Borràs-Comes, Teresa Cabré, Verònica Crespo-Sendra, Eva Estebas, Núria Esteve, María Ohannesian, Maria del Mar Vanrell.
    Amount of the subvention: 88.330 €

Design and implementation: Optimitza.cat / Joan Borràs-Comes