It's not what you said, it's how you said it: discriminative perception of speech as a multichannel communication system

Sarenne Wallbridge, Peter Bell, Catherine Lai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


People convey information extremely effectively through spoken interaction using multiple channels of information transmission: the lexical channel of what is said, and the non-lexical channel of how it is said. We propose studying human perception of spoken communication as a means to better understand how information is encoded across these channels, focusing on the question 'What characteristics of communicative context affect listener's expectations of speech?'. To investigate this, we present a novel behavioural task testing whether listeners can discriminate between the true utterance in a dialogue and utterances sampled from other contexts with the same lexical content. We characterize how perception - and subsequent discriminative capability - is affected by different degrees of additional contextual information across both the lexical and non-lexical channel of speech. Results demonstrate that people can effectively discriminate between different prosodic realisations, that non-lexical context is informative, and that this channel provides more salient information than the lexical channel, highlighting the importance of the non-lexical channel in spoken interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterspeech 2021
PublisherInternational Speech Communication Association
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2021
EventInterspeech 2021: The 22nd Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association - Brno, Czech Republic
Duration: 30 Aug 20213 Sep 2021
Conference number: 22


ConferenceInterspeech 2021
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic
Internet address


  • spoken dialogue
  • speech perception
  • prosody
  • discourse structure
  • non-lexical features


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