Stockholm university logo, link to start page

Research seminar in linguistics: Tapping into prominence


Date: Monday 11 April 2022

Time: 15.00 – 16.30

Location: C 307, Department of Linguistics

Welcome to a research seminar with Dr Anna Bruggeman and Professor Petra Wagner from the Phonetics Workgroup at Bielefeld University.

The seminar will befollowed by a post-seminar in the department's kitchenette.



Prominence is a complex feature of speech; it is relative, context-dependent, and its perception may be based on any combination of semantic, pragmatic, syntactic or prosodic properties of the signal. The question as to what listeners consider prominent elements of spoken (and written) language has been investigated in several experiments over the last 10+ years. Prominence judgments on spontaneous spoken language have been addressed in detail for American English [1, 2, 3, 4], as well as for French and Spanish [4]. Read speech has been investigated in German [5, 6]. These more recent works on German have highlighted that there are considerable differences between individual listeners, with some participants being more oriented towards the acoustic signal, and others more attuned to structural factors such as part-of-speech.

In this talk, we will briefly review some of the existing work on prominence perception, and then present results from some first experiments (cf. [7]), as well as ongoing work, in which we elicit prominence judgments by means of finger tapping on a pressure sensitive pad. While previous studies mainly elicited prominence judgments on words, our current work shifts the domain to the syllable, which allows us to more closely inspect the correspondence between acoustic properties and perceived prominence. Tapping also allows us to look at individual differences in a more fine-grained way, as prominence judgments are being expressed in a gradient manner. Finally, we will discuss some of the challenges in the analysis of finger tapping and present a short demo of what a tapping experiment looks like.


[1] Jennifer Cole, Yoonsook Mo, and Mark Hasegawa-Johnson. Signal-based and expectation-based factors in the perception of prosodic prominence. Laboratory Phonology, 1(2):425–452, 2010.
[2] Jennifer Cole, Yoonsook Mo, and Soondo Baek. The role of syntactic structure in guiding prosody perception with ordinary listeners and everyday speech. Language and Cognitive Processes, 25 (7-9):1141–1177, 2010.
[3] Jennifer Cole and Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel. New methods for prosodic transcription: Capturing variability as a source of information. Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology, 7(1), 2016.
[4] Jennifer Cole, José I. Hualde, Caroline L. Smith, Christopher Eager, Timothy Mahrt, and Ricardo Napoleão de Souza. Sound, structure and meaning: The bases of prominence ratings in English, French and Spanish. Journal of Phonetics, 75:113–147, 2019.
[5] Stefan Baumann and Bodo Winter. What makes a word prominent? predicting untrained German listeners’ perceptual judgments. Journal of Phonetics, 70:20–38, 2018.
[6] Petra Wagner, Aleksandra Ćwiek, and Barbara Samlowski. Exploiting the speech-gesture link to capture fine-grained prosodic prominence impressions and listening strategies. Journal of Phonetics, 76, 2019.
[7] Anna Bruggeman, Leonie Skrollan Schade, Marcin Włodarczak, and Petra Wagner. Beware of the individual: Evaluating prominence perception in spontaneous speech. In Proceedings of Speech Prosody. 2022. 



If you require Swedish Sign Language interpretation or have other questions, please contact Carla Wikse Barrow: