Synthesising meaning and processing approaches to prosody: performance matters

Jennifer E. Arnold, Duane G. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Words vary in acoustic prominence; for example, repeated words tend to be reduced, while focused elements tend to be acoustically prominent. We discuss two approaches to this phenomenon. On the message-based view, acoustic choices signal the speaker's meaning or pragmatics, or are guided by syntactic structure. On the facilitation-based view, reduced forms reflect facilitation of production-processing mechanisms. We argue that message-based constraints correlate systematically with production facilitation. Moreover, we argue that discourse effects on acoustic reduction may be at least partially mediated by processing facilitation. Thus, research needs to simultaneously consider both competence (message) and performance (processing) constraints on prosody, specifically in terms of the psychological mechanisms underlying acoustic reduction. To facilitate this goal, we present preliminary processing models of message- and facilitation-based approaches and outline directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-102
Number of pages15
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 7 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • acoustic prominence
  • audience design
  • language production
  • prosody
  • reference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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