The Music of Language: An Introduction to Prosody and Intonation

Mariapaola D'Imperio (Linguistics and Cognitive Science Center)

When you learn to speak another language, the problem is sometimes not simply about knowing individual sounds, words, and grammar, but how to use the specific intonation, stress patterns and the rhythm of that language in order to sound like a native and be understood. For instance wow come that when you ask a question in Italian or another foreign language that might sound awkward to natives’ ears? How come that French speakers have a hard time placing the accent on the right syllable when speaking English?  Also, how come that babies, who have not yet mastered language, can ask questions and communicate their intentions through their tone of voice and gestures? Also, have you ever thought about what makes a speaker charismatic? And what about detecting deception, irony and politeness in a speaker’s voice?

This class will hence introduce you to the study of prosody and the “music of speech” (intonation), with examples drawn from different languages. The aim is to provide an awareness of these aspects which are relevant to future foreign language teachers, linguists, speech pathologists and computer science students interested in speech technology. We will also introduce you to the relationship between musical and other cognitive skills and prosodic skills, the importance of prosody for speech technology (social robotics, speech synthesis, speech and language recognition), and applications for atypical populations (autism, developmental dyslexia, cochlear implanted children, etc.). Successful completion of the course requires regular attendance and participation, as well writing a short paper at the end of the course about a specific topic. There is no previous requirement for this class.

Course Number
01:090:101 section 13
Fall 2020
Transfer Course