Research Topic

Prosody in written language – acquisition, processing, emergence of norms

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About this Research Topic

While prosody is an integral part of spoken language, serving grammatical as well as para-linguistic means, it is conspicuously absent in the written modality. Apart from punctuation, there is hardly any explicit marking of intonation, phrasing, accent, or rhythm in writing.


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While prosody is an integral part of spoken language, serving grammatical as well as para-linguistic means, it is conspicuously absent in the written modality. Apart from punctuation, there is hardly any explicit marking of intonation, phrasing, accent, or rhythm in writing.


Given the apparent lack of prosody, the informativeness of written text may seem astonishing, especially considering the importance of prosody for morphological, syntactic, semantic, and information-structural encoding and analysis of speech.


Recent years have seen a growing interest in the role of prosody in the written modality. However, the various strands of research on this topic remain largely unconnected. We feel it is time to take stock and use the format of a Frontiers Research Topic to stimulate and further research in this interdisciplinary field.


We encourage contributions exploring the following or further questions on the role of prosody in written language:


• What is the role of prosody in reading?
• Is a prosodic representation necessary for reading comprehension or does it hamper processing of written language?
• How does the implicit prosodic representation compare to the prosody of reading aloud or actual speech?


Accumulating evidence suggests that readers construct a prosodic representation of the text even in silent reading (implicit prosody) and that this prosodic representation contributes to the syntactic and semantic analysis. On the other hand, it has been claimed that suppression of sub-vocalization and implicit prosody enhances reading speed and effectiveness.


• How is prosody encoded in writing?
• What does the lack of explicit prosodic marking mean for the encoding and decoding of written text?
• How do writers cope with the prosodic poverty of writing when formulating their messages?
• In what way does the use of graphemic means such as capitalization, letter-spacing, or quotes serve as quasi-prosodic enhancements?


Despite the lack of explicit marking of intonation and rhythm in written text, several studies have shown that written language is subject to prosodic constraints that are active in spoken speech, such as the propensity to rhythmic alternation or regular phrasing.


• What is the relation between prosody and comprehension in reading acquisition?
• What is the role of prosody in written language acquisition?
• Is effective activation of prosody a prerequisite for or merely an indicator of reading skill?
In research on reading acquisition, prosody is often quoted as an indicator of reading comprehension. On the other hand, it has been suggested that activation of prosody is a prerequisite for reading comprehension.


• Further questions of interest
What can orthographic errors tell us about the role of prosody in learning to write?
What are the specific cues to prosodic structure in the writing of different languages and different writing systems (alphabetic, syllabic, logographic, other)?
To what extent do the various orthographic systems reflect prosodic structure?


We welcome original research articles, reviews, theory articles, methodological articles, as well as brief commentaries/opinion pieces.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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