Prosody and Semantics Are Separate but Not Separable Channels in the Perception of Emotional Speech: Test for Rating of Emotions in Speech Purpose Our aim is to explore the complex interplay of prosody (tone of speech) and semantics (verbal content) in the perception of discrete emotions in speech. Method We implement a novel tool, the Test for Rating of Emotions in Speech. Eighty native English speakers were presented with spoken ... Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 2016
Prosody and Semantics Are Separate but Not Separable Channels in the Perception of Emotional Speech: Test for Rating of Emotions in Speech
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Boaz M. Ben-David
    Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel
    University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Speech-Language Pathology, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Namita Multani
    University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Vered Shakuf
    Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel
  • Frank Rudzicz
    University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Speech-Language Pathology, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Pascal H. H. M. van Lieshout
    University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Speech-Language Pathology, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    University of Toronto Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
    Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Boaz M. Ben-David: boaz.ben.david@idc.ac.il
  • Editor: Nancy Tye-Murray
    Editor: Nancy Tye-Murray×
  • Associate Editor: Karen Kirk
    Associate Editor: Karen Kirk×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosody / Hearing / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 2016
Prosody and Semantics Are Separate but Not Separable Channels in the Perception of Emotional Speech: Test for Rating of Emotions in Speech
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2016, Vol. 59, 72-89. doi:10.1044/2015_JSLHR-H-14-0323
History: Received November 18, 2014 , Revised June 27, 2015 , Accepted July 22, 2015
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2016, Vol. 59, 72-89. doi:10.1044/2015_JSLHR-H-14-0323
History: Received November 18, 2014; Revised June 27, 2015; Accepted July 22, 2015
Web of Science® Times Cited: 5

Purpose Our aim is to explore the complex interplay of prosody (tone of speech) and semantics (verbal content) in the perception of discrete emotions in speech.

Method We implement a novel tool, the Test for Rating of Emotions in Speech. Eighty native English speakers were presented with spoken sentences made of different combinations of 5 discrete emotions (anger, fear, happiness, sadness, and neutral) presented in prosody and semantics. Listeners were asked to rate the sentence as a whole, integrating both speech channels, or to focus on one channel only (prosody or semantics).

Results We observed supremacy of congruency, failure of selective attention, and prosodic dominance. Supremacy of congruency means that a sentence that presents the same emotion in both speech channels was rated highest; failure of selective attention means that listeners were unable to selectively attend to one channel when instructed; and prosodic dominance means that prosodic information plays a larger role than semantics in processing emotional speech.

Conclusions Emotional prosody and semantics are separate but not separable channels, and it is difficult to perceive one without the influence of the other. Our findings indicate that the Test for Rating of Emotions in Speech can reveal specific aspects in the processing of emotional speech and may in the future prove useful for understanding emotion-processing deficits in individuals with pathologies.

Acknowledgments
This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation Grant 2008-ABIPDF-659, awarded to B. M. Ben-David, and from Canada Research Chairs Grant 303712CRC, awarded to P. H. H. M. van Lieshout. B. M. Ben-David was partially supported by Marie Curie Career Integration Grant FP7-PEOPLE-2012-CIG from the European Commission. We wish to thank Nicole A.-M. Durham for her assistance in collecting the empirical data.
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