Xin Gao's dissertation proposal defense will be taking place on Tuesday, May 7 at 2pm in the department library, as well as on Zoom.

The proposal document can be found here, and the abstract is included below.


Title: Conversational and compositional pressure on silent pause in spontaneous and read speech

Supervisor: Mark Liberman

Proposal committee: Gareth Roberts, Meredith Tamminga, Rolf Noyer

Time: May 7 (Tuesday), 2:00pm-3:30pm

Place: Linguistics department library, 3401C Walnut St, Suite 300 and on Zoom.


The dissertation investigates how the realization of silent pauses differs in spontaneous and read speech, with a particular emphasis on their interaction with the message structure of phrasing. Using a corpus approach, I address two research questions. The first question explores the interaction between silent pauses and the message structure of phrasing, covering both syntactic and non-syntactic aspects. The results show that syntactic structure, such as the presence of phrasal boundaries, word embedding depth, and word Part-of-Speech contexts, can be reflected in the distribution of silent pauses. However, the results also show that syntactic structure cannot explain all about silent pause realization. The realization of silent pauses in speech is also influenced by other aspects of message structure, including genre and punctuation.

The second question explores the underlying causes of the observed differences between spontaneous and read speech. While there are many differences between these two speech genres, I will focus on two dimensions: conversational pressure (monologue vs. dialogue) and online composing pressure (scripted vs. spontaneous speech). In this proposal, I will go over the rationale for choosing these two aspects for the study and develop hypotheses for the next step of the study.