Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

An in-depth look at how we perceive emotion in speech

In speech, prosody is the way in which something is said – that is, intonation, stress, tone and rhythm. EU-funded researchers explored the relative importance of pitch, timing and loudness in communicating basic emotions.
An in-depth look at how we perceive emotion in speech
The project EMOTION IN SPEECH (Emotional prosody in speech: The importance of pitch, timing and loudness) focused investigations on the three acoustic cues that are important for the affective aspects of prosody. Two primary objectives guided the work: to better understand perception of emotional prosody on its own, and to put it in a more universal context through comparison with emotional expression in music.

Project work was divided across three main sections. Partners first developed a validated set of emotional utterances in French, establishing a set of stimuli that can be used by French researchers to study emotional prosody. Utterances by actors were presented to monolingual French speakers. Acoustic measurements revealed that the way emotions were expressed by the different actors varied widely. The final 90 selected utterances are undergoing further validation with a view to testing emotion perception in speech among music participants.

EMOTION IN SPEECH then tested the effect of second language (English) knowledge in French speakers on perception of American emotional prosody. The research team examined the relation between the participants' self-reported English knowledge and their recognition and ratings of emotions in English prosody and affect bursts. They found that English ability was only related to emotional prosody and also only for positive emotions. A paper on this particular work has been published in PLOS One, titled 'Second language ability and emotional prosody perception'.

In the third line of work, project researchers created a set of musical stimuli expressing anger and joy, and then tested these along with equivalent speech stimuli to explore universal aspects of auditory emotion. Improvised melodies and speech stimuli were used in an electroencephalogram study to examine whether the brain processes emotion from these two types of stimuli in similar ways. Findings from this section of the project will be presented in a paper currently in preparation.

The research and findings from this project highlight the complexity of emotional prosody perception. Ongoing work and experimental results will contribute important knowledge about the means by which we perceive emotions and possibly be used to improve treatments for impairments in recognition of emotion in developmental disabilities.

Related information


Emotion in speech, prosody, emotional prosody, pitch, acoustic cues
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top