Utterance fluency and perceptual fluency in L2 @ ICPhS 2015

After DiSS at Edinburgh, I took a train ride west one hour to Glasgow to take part in the International Congress for Phonetics Sciences (ICPhS). This was an extremely well-organized conference from start to finish.  The organizers did a good job of keeping everyone informed in advance of the conference as well as choosing a highly competent convention center for the venue:  Even when it became apparent that rooms were exceeding capacity, the organizers and convention center made rapid accommodations. That resulted in some room changes for some presentations, but convention center staff were well-placed and well-informed so that it wasn't at all difficult to find the correct room. Thanks to the organizers!

International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS) 2015 - Frank GuentherI was impressed by all the plenary talks at the conference. Although this wasn't her main point, I appreciated Ann Cutler's aside that when it comes to doing second language psycholinguistic research, it is highly informative to observe participants' behavior in their first language in order to provide a baseline for their performance. Frank Guenther's plenary was also particularly impressive, as well. Not only was his work on the DIVA model quite very interesting, his presentation of was very lucid and thorough.

Besides the plenaries, many other oral and poster presentations were very interesting. I could find lots of presentations related to hesitation phenomena and fluency. Bosker and Reinisch talked about changes in the apparent speech rate of speakers when listening under cognitive difficulty, finding that nonnative speech is generally perceived as faster than it actually is (presumably because of the added difficulty of comprehending it). With reference to forensics, Leeman, Kolly and Nolan talked about fluency factors as related to personality, finding that extroverted people are more fluent than others in first and second language speech production. Also, Braun and Rosin considered how identifiable speakers are from their hesitation patterns. Their results suggest that it is possible, and doesn't necessarily require a large sample of an individual's speech. Some really interesting poster presentations were as follows:

  • Cabarrão et al - Prosodic classification of discourse markers
  • Heyne and Derrick - The influence of tongue position on trombone sound: A likely area of language influence
  • Jixing and Tilsen - Phonetic evidence for two types of disfluency
  • McDougall et al - Individual and group variation in disfluency features:  A cross-accent investigation
  • Moniz et al - Automatic recognition of prosodic patterns in semantic verbal fluency tests - an animal naming task for edutainment applications
  • Plug - Prosodic marking and predictability in lexical self-repair
  • Reitbrecht and Hirschfeld - The impact of fluency and hesitation phenomena on the perception of non-native speakers by native listeners of German
  • Stepikhov and Loukina - Sentence boundaries in text and pauses in speech: Correlation or confrontation?
  • Wolters et al - Tracking depressed mood using speech pause patterns

To my surprise, I also found someone also from Tokyo, doing work quite similar to my own.  Shrosbree also studies cross-linguistic correlations between L1 and L2 speech, finding similar results to my own (and others): articulation rate is highly correlated. She also has a common interest in considering how these various results influence L2 pedagogy.

Relationship between pause duration and fluency rating in L2 recordings in CCHPIn my own oral presentation (slides, paper, and gratitude to Jane Setter for live-tweeting), I talked about some data from the CCHP which shows correlations between first and second language speech behavior. Then, in the second part, I talked about what factors influenced raters' judgments of L2 fluency. The basic result seems to show that raters pay most attention to L2 silent pause duration and less so to L2 speech rate, although these two factors are highly correlated with L1 speech behavior. Question time was very short, so there wasn't much time for deep questions, but several people talked with me helpfully afterward, giving some great comments and suggestions.

In particular, I was pleased that one researcher said she was glad that I related my results to pedagogy at the end, because it is so rare that she hears about it at conferences such as these.  I have to say that I agree. Many faculty members around the world also teach language skills as part of their jobs and hearing suggestions for how phonetics research influences pedagogy is very helpful.