Language Technologies Institute Colloquium

  • Professor
  • Department of Computer Science
  • University of Texas at El Paso

Prosodic Constructions and Human Interaction

People pervasively use prosody to signal attitudes, frame intentions, and coordinate behavior. Speech technology has long exploited prosody as a feature source, but analysis of prosodic behaviors also reveals much about the structure and elements of human interaction. One recent advance is the notion of the prosodic construction, atemporally-specified configuration of multiple streams of prosodic features, which can be superimposed on other constructions to create observed behavior. Many prosodic constructions have been recently discovered, including in English seven that underlie the turn taking system, several for expressing positive assessment and other stances, and others for cuing and coordinating action. Prosodic constructions can be discovered from data by semi-automatic methods, and some of their hypothesized properties
have been experimentally confirmed. Prosodic constructions have the potential to usefully constrain learning, to enable controllable speech synthesis and more effective dialog systems, and to support precision diagnosis of communicative disorders and deficiencies.

Nigel G. Ward is the author of Prosodic Patterns in English Conversation, Cambridge University Press, 2019, and the chair of ISCA's Speech Prosody Special Interest Group. His research focuses on models of and applications involving prosody. Ward received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1991 and was a member of the Engineering faculty at the University of Tokyo for ten years before taking up his current position at the University of Texas at El Paso. In 2015-2016 he was a Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor at Kyoto University.

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