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Our Research Catalogue contains grants and outputs data up until April/May 2014.

Multiple-methods approaches to discourse topic structure

  • Start date: 01 March 2012
  • End date: 31 January 2013

It is well known that people convey meaning in conversation not only with their choice of words, but also with the use of prosody: variations in pitch, loudness, and other characteristics of the sounds which can create different shades of meaning.

Current research on how prosody contributes to meaning in conversation suffers from fragmentation between a variety of approaches. In the ESRC fellowship year, Dr Zellers will continue an interdisciplinary approach begun during her PhD, bringing together previous quantitative experimental findings about prosodic characteristics of topic changes with the findings of Conversation Analysis (CA) research, a qualitative approach championed at the University of York.

This comparison of findings will help identify useful points of contact between formal/quantitative approaches and functional/qualitative approaches. Dr Zellers will also begin developing a perception experiment combining psycholinguistic methods with conversational data. The research is of particular relevance to researchers working in a variety of language fields due to its interdisciplinary approach, while the wider question of the means by which speakers and listeners share meaning in conversation is also of interest to anyone curious about cognition, human behaviour and interaction, and communication in general.

  • Outputs (5)