Sunday, 10 April 2016

Prosody, hearing and emotions

In the paper “Auditory event structure and speech”, Fred Cummins illustrate types of event structures suggesting that being familiar with them could motivate their phonologization into familiar structures. In his words – “This work is an initial attempt to move the discussion of speech prosody towards a grounding in auditory ecology.”. Reading the article took me to a completely different direction. Thinking about the many people who focus on speech and language. From acquisition to proper and folk usage of it, why is speech so special? What is it about hearing that fascinates us?
As the article continues on auditory systems and recognizing events I could not stop thinking about sound tracks and scary movies when we can “feel” what the movie wants us to feel just by listening to the sounds. Growing up with sound tracks like the ones from “jaws”, “psycho” and “the shinning” I still have goosebumps when I hear one of those sounds. Reading about how sounds can combining to belong as a single event made me realize how many sounds could combine to characterize moments that are important to us and will be remembered in a certain way, specially reading about the example of bouncing and breaking sounds. Is it the same hear a glass breaking during breakfast or your mother’s glass of water breaking while she collapses on the floor?
While going through an emotional event your senses might no “work” properly, some people even say they don’t work at all. Moments so full of emotions that the only sound you can hear is your own heartbeat. That is when I came back to the idea of learners. Isn’t learning an emotional rollercoaster? There is excitement with the new and interesting world of knowledge, also frustration with something we don’t quite understand, nervousness to learn something considered important, and so on. One important point on the article is that perceiving an event is stronger than disconnected sounds, multiple sounds will be considered as a single event and those are more likely to have a more important source.

The article reminded me of things completely disconnected to its purpose and I could not stop thinking of the effects of being an emotional being in that whole mixture. After all, if we are considering the event structure we have to consider the entire human system with all its facets. Emotions are not part of the auditory system, but it can probably affect perception. Perceiving an event clearly evolves around the perceiver and his state of mind in that moment might be of some importance.  

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