Prosody, Poetry and Processing: an Event Related Potential Investigation of Auditory Imagery



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The aim of the current study is to understand the role of metrical structure in implicit prosody during silent reading as an attempt to draw parallels between auditory imagery and auditory perception. Implicit prosody can direct readers’ real-time linguistic interpretations of text; manipulation of implicit prosodic cues affects linguistic ambiguity resolution, thereby providing insight into the nature of auditory imagery and language processing. Event related potentials (ERPs) of nineteen participants were recorded using continuous electroencephalography as they read a series of 320 couplets derived from limericks, which had manipulated lexical stress patterns of the target word (trochaic or iambic) and metrical consistency (metrically consistent or metrically inconsistent). Using the Bucknell Auditory Imagery Scale (BAIS) and Varieties of Inner Speech Questionnaire (VISQ), we obtained measures of the participants’ levels of auditory imagery. Apart from a moderate negative correlation with the VISQ Dialogic subscale score, there was no significant relationship between evoked ERP responses and the auditory imagery scales. We found that metrically inconsistent trochaic targets elicited a negativity between 325-400ms over left and medial-frontocentral scalp regions relative to consistent trochaic targets. This result suggests that internally generated prosodic structures do, indeed, impact real-time language processing during silent reading and that, specifically, metrical structure in language creates temporal expectancies during implicit prosody.



Prosody, Neurolinguistics, Psycholinguistics, Rhythm, Poetry, Metrical Structure, Neuroscience, Electroencephalography, Sentence Processing, Implicit Prosody, Individual Differences, Limericks, Varieties of Inner Speech Questionnaire, Bucknell Auditory Imagery Scale, Cognition, Cognitive Science, Language, Imagination, Auditory Imagery