Monday, October 16, 2006

doppleganger + phonetics = something sinister

i'm taking a speech play and verbal art class this semester and we've been analyzing sound in a number of ways. and i have to do a paper in there so i've been thinking of ways to do this use tools like praat to analyze something cmcish. i'm planning on doing an analysis connected to my attitude research, so this might be interesting for my doppleganger (and perhaps others with similar interestes to my doppleganger) if he's still mulling around on that sweet sweet formalism.

what effect would the adding of an emoticon to the end of a text have on suprasegmental aspects of the speech. you could compare the presence or absence of different emoticons with different pitch patterns, or rates, or pause structure. at that kind of micro level, would anything be different. if they were different, then this would suggest that we had some tool to quantifiably measure of online discourse structure from a slighty psycholinguistic/experimental perspective. it would also suggest something about the relationship between the off and online.

if they're not different, then... i have a feeling they'll be different :) with lots of data, i'll be some kind of patterns emerge, and with the proper statistical analysis, you could marry the descriptive data from praat with quantitative methods.

Comments:
Cool idea, but I'm not sure I totally understand - do you mean you would have people read aloud utterances that ended with emoticons or had emoticons somewhere otherwise within them, and then analyze patterns of their speech sounds? I think that's what you mean.

For background on what emoticons have been shown to "mean" to people (i.e. how they affect people's evaluations of messages), there's a paper you are probably familiar with: [Walther, J.B. & D’Addario, K.P. (2001). The Impacts of Emoticons on Message Interpretation in Computer-Mediated Communication. Social Science Computer Review 19, 324-347.] It might be useful if you're looking at what kinds of attitudes or responses the prosodic/intonational patterns you find might actually be manifesting.

Something also to consider is whether, when someone reads such things (I'm assuming here that I understand your design), if they see themselves as assuming the voice of the person who wrote the utterance, or of the interpreter of the utterance. Because it could be different, depending on who they think wrote it (like, if I'm reading something from a supposedly generic emoticon user, I might make the emoticon do something different than if I'm reading something from someone whose emoticon use I'm familiar with - my friend or classmate or sister).
 
so since you brought praat into this, i can only assume that you're going to use spoken data? as in, having subjects read a sentence with different emoticons in utterance-final position to see what features of the production changes along with each emoticon?

otherwise i'm lost :)

also, due to frequent suggestion, the doppleganger will be writing his formalist paper on actual spoken discourse.
 
jinx.

i also thought said study sounds a lot like walther and d’addario, except with more phones. although maybe josh could veer from their study by using actual discourse instead of just throwing an emoticon into a constructed sentence ;)
 
Also - we missed our blog's birthday! I think it was Oct. 10. Or 12. Either way, it was a few days ago. Whatta year!
 
Oh yeah, and - psychic clutch, Raclaw.
 
yeah. the idea is to get them to read, out loud, a sentence (or longer bit of text) that has an emoticon in text-final position. so something like this:

I can't believe that you told him he was a goof :)

I can't believe that you told him he was a goof.

I can't believe that you told him he was a jerk >:(

I can't believe that you told him he was a jerk :|

and then analyze, using praat, any difference in the way they read the sentences. of course, they'd have to read the sentences multiple times, and you'd have to vary the content of the sentences, but...
 
You know what? I actually have a hunch - this is not to invalidate your study but rather to urge it on - that they won't be different, or differences will be slight or erratic. Two reasons for this: 1) Lots of times emoticons seem to contain a separate thought-unit of their own, if that makes any sense, rather than adding an overarching quality to the utterance's message. When I read these sentences, my intonation is the same, except at the end I have a different sort of "feeling" that takes up a temporal space of its own. which is 2) There's an issue of temporality/linearity here. You can't read the whole thing after having looked at the emoticon: the fact that they are typically utterance-final might bear on their interpretation as being either a) related to the whole sentence or b) lexical-type units of their own.

This should be really, really interesting!
 
there aren't any changes in pitch for me either, but i think that's just the choice of emoticon. i hear a noticeable difference when i say:

let's just get fish and beer :)
vs.
let's just get fish and beer :(

for example. here are my thoughts on the study:

1) the sociolinguist in me thinks that asking someone to just make meaning out of a constructed sentence that is taken out of any other discursive context makes for shaky methodology.

2) the content of the utterance potentially matters just as much as the emoticon, and needs to somehow be accounted for. for me, the 'just' in the above sentences helps lend the different interpretation and thus the different pitch contour, for example.

3) what actually can be said about having people voice a paralinguistic feature that's strictly written, and has no precedent for being used in spoken discourse? it seems almost an exercise in translation to me, and i wonder to what extent that claims we could make about these voiced emoticons can be carried over to the use of written emoticons.

4) how good a control is the sentence that lacks the emoticon, since it can be read, sans context, with a potentially large number of pitch contours anyway? (i battled deciding how i'd even want to pronounce the example you gave, because i had no idea what the intent of it was.)

that all being said, just like squires, i see these as all the more reason to do it. i'm kind of jealous i didn't think of it first ;)
 
re: squires:

since these here emoticons are typically utterance-final, and end-punctuation like exclamation points and question marks also potentially change the pitch contour of certain parts of an utterance, is there a precedent for thinking emoticons will affect the pitch contour in similar ways as those types of punctuation?
 
I thought about that too, and that's what I mean by thinking of the emoticon as something "separate" in some way from the rest of the utterance, whereas punctuation can act as a kind of inflection on the utterance itself. Dig? I have no idea which way most people treat them, though. Totally looking forward to this.
 
Talent, you will tell nothing..
 
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