Many of my publications are available on my ResearchGate page.

Current research areas

Constituents and heads in prosody perception: A comparative study

This was an NSF-funded project in collaboration with Jennifer Cole, Northwestern University and José Hualde of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The project investigated the relation between prosodic phrases and their heads, and more broadly, the perception of prominence and phrasing, in English, Spanish, and French. I contributed the French part of the project.

Comparing the prosody of these three languages is interesting because they are known to differ with respect to how prosody is structured, how it is manifested acoustically, and in its relation to meaning. Some results were presented at conferences such as Speech Prosody (Hualde et al., Poster Session 3, paper 206), and LabPhon 15 (Cole et al., scroll down to see abstracts). A paper is under preparation for the Journal of Phonetics's special issue on Prominence (eds. Stefan Baumann and Francesco Cangemi).

In addition, as part of this project, Ricardo Napoleão de Souza and I have studied the production of corrective focus and disclocations in French, using the Nijmegen Corpus of Conversational French. We have observed an almost complete absence of the acoustic markers that have been proposed in the literature for these constructions. Our working hypothesis is that in conversation, information shared by speakers and listeners permits extensive “prosodic reduction”. We have reported some of these results at ICPhS in Glasgow (Smith and Napoleão de Souza)and LabPhon at Cornell (Napoleão de Souza and Smith).

Articulatory correlates of prominence in French: Comparing L1 and L2 speakers

I am working on this project with Donna Erickson and Christophe Savariaux. We collected EMA (electromagnetic articulography) data at GIPSA-Lab in Grenoble: native speakers of French and English read sentences in both languages. This enables comparison of L1 and L2 speakers in both languages. Initially we are analyzing the L1 and L2 data for French. A preliminary report was given at PaPE in Köln (search for Erickson, Smith and Savariaux).

Other research

Native listeners’ perception of prosody produced by non-native speakers of English

This study (done in collaboration with Paul Edmunds) investigates how native American English listeners perceive two aspects of prosody, phrasal boundaries and prominence, in the speech of native and L2 speakers of English. The L2 speakers, whose native language was Latin American Spanish, were advanced students at CELAC, the University of New Mexico’s center for teaching English to international students.

We used Rapid Prosody Transcription (RPT) to investigate listeners’ perceptions of the prosody produced by the native and non-native speakers as they read aloud. RPT offers a language-independent tool to access listeners’ holistic understanding of prosody. Listeners hear an audio recording of speech while following along on an orthographic, unpunctuated transcript of the recording. They indicate their perception of phrasal boundaries or prominent words by marking them on the transcript in real time. Compared to acoustic analysis, studying listener reactions provides more insight into what aspects of non-native prosody are most salient. This may be useful in guiding learners to the most effective ways to improve their prosody. Also, listeners respond to the signal as a whole, while measurement of individual acoustic parameters may fail to capture the relevant dimensions.

This research was presented at Interspeech 2013 in Lyon, France; you can see the paper here.