Emily Chicklis' Blog
Below is a log of my contributions to the project - to read the other researchers' blogs, follow the links below.
The primary focus of this week has been becoming more familiar with the background of the project. So far, I have been reading existing research on pitch accents and prosodic notation, as well as learning the many facets of ToBI, a system of transcription, using an online lecture series created by Dr. Veilleux and her collaborators. With Karina and Sara, I began to make recordings in Praat, the linguistic software that we'll be using for the duration of the project. I am very happy to already have meetings with my group members and with Dr. Veilleux planned out for the rest of the semester; it's good to know that we'll be checking in together at least twice a week.
This week I made use of Praat to better understand how ToBI is used. I recorded myself reciting different phoneme classes (e.g.: saying the words "stop" and "rock" to demonstrate stop consonants) and noticed that sounds of the same class seemed to produce similar waveforms. I am feeling much more comfortable using ToBI now that I have advanced in the lessons and have actually begun applying the system to speech. However, I have found that it is more difficult to notate speech that is not my own because I am less aware of how the sound was produced. In the coming weeks I will continue training my ear to notice the inflections in others' speech.
I was able to proceed this week with the ToBI lecture series through lesson 2.4. In addition, Professor Veilleux also sent us a 30-second recording from the FM Radio News Corpus. The sound clip features a female voice reporting the news in a distinct anchorperson's accent. Using my knowledge from the ToBI lessons, I have begun to mark up the pitch accents, phrases, and boundaries of this recording. I'm feeling more confident with ToBI, but I'm definitely looking forward to checking in with Professor Veilleux to see how well my mark up matches the sound.
This week I began to annotate a 30-second recording of journalist, editor, and voice coach Margo Melnicove giving a news report. Along with Sara and Karina, I have also progressed to lesson 2.6 of the ToBI lecture series. I feel like I have a better handle on the mark-up system, which, as Professor Veilleux reminded us, is a means to an end - the end being our ability to conduct our experiment. Soon we'll be marking up voice clips from a past experiment conducted by other Simmons students, which we will be replicating to look for patterns of prosody and their meaning in conversation.
I continued with my ToBI analysis of the sound clip featuring Margo Melnicove, feeling a little more confident after talking with Dr. Veilleux the previous week. Since beginning this project I've begun to notice little nuances in others' speech that I never would have noticed before - from the way people emphasize words to the point where they take a breath in a spoken phrase. Looking forward to beginning my new individual assignment and getting a feel for linguistic discourse and how one approaches writing up research on the subject.
This week I was able to begin my individual assignment, reading the 2008 paper “A Question of Commitment” by Dr. Christine Gunlogson. This paper examines the use of declarative sentences in American English and attempts to model the idea of “commitment”. In brief, a speaker may use both declarative statements and “declarative questions” to express commitment on their part, because they do not expect a response from the addressee (for example, on seeing someone tossing out a plate and utensils around noon, I might say, “You ate lunch already?” Though the statement takes the form of the question, I am already pretty sure that person ate lunch). This form is different than a usual question that requests information, placing the commitment on the addressee (“Did you eat lunch already?”). I will be reading a few more papers on similar subjects and collecting relevant background information that Karina, Sara, and I can apply to our own project.
I really enjoyed Gunlogson's paper - she clarifies the idea of commitment with helpful examples, and introduced me to the idea of declarative questions. I wrote up a summary that outlines Gunlogson's theory, and will be creating a "commitment scale" based on her work. Gunlogson already does this to some extent, offering three levels of commitment, from basic interrogative questions to declarative statements. However, it is our assertion that there are additional levels, such as statements that contradict those of another person.
I have now moved on from my examination of Gunlogson's research to reading articles by Northup, and have begun working on outlining a five-point scale of speaker commitment. Our hope is that this will provide a basis for interpreting results in our future experiment.
I contributed to the IRB proposal this week by fleshing out the methods and participants sections, as well as making general edits. I also wrote a randomization script for our experiment, and began a summary of a linguistics article by Northup.
This week, I continued to polish up the IRB and my randomization code, which can now be used to randomly assign participants to conditions.
We were finally able to submit our IRB proposal this week! I gathered all of the individual components together and brought them to the Office of Sponsored Programs at Simmons College. Additionally, I continued to parse through our background research and develop the 5-point commitment scale.
Because it was Thanksgiving week, we did not get a chance to meet as a team. I followed up with the Office of Sponsored Programs with regard to our IRB proposal over e-mail.
This Tuesday Karina, Sara, and I touched base after the long weekend. We have all been working on more individual projects, but that's to be expected at this point. Excited to conduct the experiment next semester! For now, continuing to search for evidence that supports my commitment scale as well as elements I may have overlooked.
During our meeting with Dr. Veilleux, we better established our plans for next semester. I determined times that I will be available to conduct the experiment, which we hope to perform in the first few weeks of the semester. The early timing will leave plenty of time for data analysis, which I'm excited to get into for this project.
This week was finals week, so we did not meet and instead focused on exams.
This week marked the start of winter break, so we won't be able to meet again in person until January.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
Happy New Year!
This was our last week of winter break. We're excited to get back to work on our project!
Back to Simmons! We did a full run-through of the experiment to get used to the equipment, and also began recruiting participants for next week.
This week we ran 8 participants, and things have been going quite smoothly so far! Sara, Karina, and I traded off shifts so that two of us could be present for any one participant.
Another round of experiments this week - enjoying the experimental process and seeing how subjects react to our study.
Having run a solid number of participants so far, we're looking into beginning data analysis (which requires lots of sound editing first!). In the meantime, Sara and I also got in touch with the psychology department in order to recruit more students in the future. The psych department has a website for the express purpose of advertising and signing students up for studies, so that's perfect for us!
I began chopping up sound files this week, which can be a bit of a tedious process, but a very necessary one if we are to compare trials within and between subjects. Karina, Sara, and I each took on one third of the participants to make the process easier.
This past week I finished chopping up my third of the sound files; however, we soon came across an interesting issue with some of our data. We intentionally excluded punctuation from the sentences that participants are meant to read aloud, hoping to avoid "leading" them to use a particular inflection. As a result, many of the comics were somewhat ambiguous (could reasonably have been interpreted as either a question or a declarative sentence), yet the vast majority of subjects interpreted such dialogue as declarative. Having noticed this new trend, which had not arisen in past experiments on this subject, we have decided to explore whether people who text are more likely to inerpret a lack of punctuation as implying a period.
Sara and I compared our H2 labels for participant one this week and worked through any discrepancies. Next week we'll be Skyping with a graduate student in linguistics to get his input, and I'm excited to meet him!
Home for spring break this week!
Earlier this week we met with ZL, a grad student currently working in Tuscon, Arizona. It was great to meet and work with someone who has been immersed for quite a while in similar research. ZL helped us go through some of our sound files to compare ToBI labels, as well as clarifying some of the new labels proposed by Byron Ahn.
Sara, Karina, and I met with Zl again this week, and it turns out that he and Byron Ahn will be repeating our experiment with an edited set of powerpoints. Their work should make an interesting point of comparison for future data analysis. We've also started to discuss plans for our next round of experiments with Nanette, but our first priority is the upcoming NECWIC conference.
This week I focused on analyzing the data we have gathered so far and setting up our poster for the conference this weekend! Our data, even at this preliminary stage, yielded some interesting results - it appears that omittance of punctuation in the stimuli created enough ambiguity that a far greater variety of boundary tones was elicited from subjects than expected. This finding is especially interesting when compared to the data from our collaborator ZL. His data showed the expected bimodal results over all H2 conditions, with roughly half of the boundary tones for the S1H2 conditions being H-H% (canonical interrogative) and those for the S2H2 being L-L% (canonical declarative).
I had a wonderful time at the conference in Portland this past weekend! This week, we're preparing a new set of experiments with the edited powerpoints. This time around we'll be collaborating more closely with Byron and ZL so that we can pool our data together. I've opened up a study sign-up using an existing website from the psychology department.
This week we began running subjects for round 2 of our experiments. A large portion of our students were recruited via the psychology department, and the students seemed excited to help. In addition to the new powerpoints, we found that Audacity was a much better choice for recording than Praat (though Praat is still a necessity for labeling). I've been continuing to manage some of our new sign-ups for next week. Also, recently one of my professors gave an overview of Plot.ly, so I'm hoping to make some interactive graphs in the future!
Round 2 of experiments complete! I helped to run our last cohort of subjects for our production experiments, and updated the results and conclusion section of our poster to present at Simmons' Undergraduate Research Symposium. Excited to present to members of our college with Sara and Karina next week.
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