Iconic prosody in story reading

Marcus Perlman, Nathaniel Clark, Marlene Johansson Falck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Recent experiments have shown that people iconically modulate their prosody corresponding with the meaning of their utterance (e.g., Shintel et al., 2006). This article reports findings from a story reading task that expands the investigation of iconic prosody to abstract meanings in addition to concrete ones. Participants read stories that contrasted along concrete and abstract semantic dimensions of speed (e.g., a fast drive, slow career progress) and size (e.g., a small grasshopper, an important contract). Participants read fast stories at a faster rate than slow stories, and big stories with a lower pitch than small stories. The effect of speed was distributed across the stories, including portions that were identical across stories, whereas the size effect was localized to size‐related words. Overall, these findings enrich the documentation of iconicity in spoken language and bear on our understanding of the relationship between gesture and speech.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1348-1368
Number of pages21
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number6
Early online date29 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • Prosody
  • Vocal gesture
  • Speech production
  • Iconicity


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