Linguistic Focus Prosody and Reading Fluency Literacy Research Association meeting, December 2013 Paula J. Schwanenflugel and Matthew Westmoreland, University of Georgia Rebekah George Benjamin, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Lilly Steiner and Carolyn Groff Monmouth University
Why is reading prosody important? • Learning to read aloud with good reading prosody (good expression) is an important marker of the achievement of reading fluency (Kuhn, Schwanenflugel, & Meisinger, 2010). • Children with good fluency show substantial pitch variability and pitch distinctions that match the text (Benjamin & Schwanenflugel, 2010; Benjamin, Schwanenflugel, Meisinger, Kuhn, Steiner & Groff, 2012).
Some previous findings with regards to changes in reading prosody as a function of fluency skill
Recent developments in prosody theory • Recent linguistic theory considers prosody to be an acoustic guide to importance (Wilson & Wharton, 2006). Prosody seems to have been designed to enhance communication and comprehension. • Prosody makes some words more prominent by changing • pitch, • increasing intensity, • lengthening syllables.
Some ways that prosody directs attention Contrastive stress prosody • Big John held up two, a blue one and a yellow one. He held out one flower that was in his garden and said, “Here, take this one.” • They considered both. Pointing down hill, Frog said, “Let’s try that.” • When the word that is highlighted prosodically, it focuses the listener (or reader) on one of the two potential antecedents • Between the ages of 5 and 7, young children come to understand and produce the prosody of contrastives(Cutler & Swinney, 1986; Patel & Brayton, 2009). We don’t know if children bring this understanding into their oral reading.
Constrastive Stress Prosody “Let’s…_________try________________that”
Some ways in which prosody directs attention Direct Quotation Toad said, “It doesn’t seem that there is anyone inside. Is anyone inside?” Frog said it doesn’t seem that there is. Toad asked him to come back. Toad repeated, “Please come back.” • Direct quotation brings what has been directly quoted into the foreground whereas indirect quotation moves the same information into the background (Jansen, Gregory, & Brenier, 2001; Weber, 2008). • Generally, pitch range in adults is greater for direct than indirect quotes (Jansen et al., 2001). We don’t know if children bring this into their oral reading.
Direct Quotation Prosody “Frog re- plied, ‘Come back.’” “to come back”
Some ways in which prosody directs attention Exclamatives and Emotional Prosody • “What anidea!”versus“He had an idea.” • Emotional prosody is something you should pay attention to. Exclamatives are a type of emotional prosody. • Research with adults suggests that exclamatives receive high pitch and syllable lengthening followed by a deep falling pitch contour (Kral, Kelckova, & Cerisara, 2007; Sorianello, 2012) We don’t know whether children bring this into their oral reading.
Exclamative vs. Declarative “What______an___________idea!” “They did all kinds of activities in the forest.”
Questions for the study Which, if any, linguistic focus features of prosody are apparent in children’s oral reading prosody during the period in which children are learning to read fluently? Do fluent readers (as determined by wcpm and sight word reading efficiency) display these features more sharply than less fluent readers?
Methodology • Participants: 120 third graders (36% minority; 42% free/reduced lunch) attending public schools in GA or NJ. None currently receiving EL services. • Fluency assessments: TOWRE Sight Word Efficiency, QRI 3rd grade passage. • Prosody passage: Experimental passage, “3rd grade” readability, two instances of contrastive, exclamatory, and direct quotation prosody. • Focused text segments (i.e., segments that targeted the information-focusing feature) against unfocused segments (i.e., segments that used similar words but not in an information-focusing way) were compared. • Determined children’s pitch and amplitude of focused segments compared to unfocused segments (see Figure 1), using PRAAT, and averaged over the two instances of each linguistic focus feature.
Passage for Prosody Assessment Figure 1. Frog and Toad have a New Friend Frog and Toad were good, happy funny friends. They did all kinds of activities in the forest. They would like to walk slowly together at first and then have an increase in their speed. Then, Frog would run with Toad from the woods. They liked to recall all the lovely times they had playing in the forest. One day, Toad found two paths ahead andhe was not clear where they went. (Declarative) They considered both. Pointing down hill, Frog said, “Let’s try (Contrastive) that.” But Toad wasn’t sure whether to take (Non-Contrastive) this one. It was on this path that Frog (whocan get himself into trouble sometimes) set out anyway. Toad asked him to (Non-Quotative) come back. But Frog was gone. Toad repeated, “Please (Quotative) come back.” Frog came upon a small green house. It looked empty. There were neat, pretty, colorful flowers growing along a fence. Maybe an artist lived there. Soon, Toad gave up and followed him. Toad said, “(Quotative) It doesn’t seem that there is anyone inside. (Yes-No Question)Is anyone inside?” Frog said (Non-Quotative) it doesn’t seem that there is. Frog had an (Non-Exclamative) idea. Frog said, “We should go and look.” What an (Exclamative) idea! “We should go and look? I don’t know,” replied Toad. It looked like somebody might live there. “Let’s wait to see if anyone comes home.” They waited and waited. They watched the animals. Bunnies were jumping. Cats were sleeping in the grass. Mice were making nests under old logs. A blackbird flew by. Frog said, “I almost missed (Non-Contrastive) that.” All the animals were active. Then, a tall man walked over to them (and he took them by surprise). • “Hi, I am Toad and this is Frog. What’s your name?” asked Toad. He smiled a real big (Non-Exclamative) smile. “I am Big John,” said the man. He saw them gazing at his garden. (Yes-No Question) “Would you like to see my garden?” Frog said, “We would like that very much.” Big John decided which path to take. Big John decided against the path by the garden fence. He didn’t walk on this path. (Declarative) It was wet.In fact, a black bird was taking a bath by the garden fence. So, he chose the path that went through a small greenhouse. There were many neat, pretty colorful flowers in the garden. It was very artistic. Big John saw Toad looking at his flowers. “Would you like one?” he asked. Big John held up two, a blue one and a yellow one. He held out one flower that was in his garden and said, “Here, take (Contrastive) thisone.” He gave Toad the blue one. So, it was in his garden that they all became friends. “I’m so glad to have new friends,” said Big John. Now, they all had an increase in good friends. Their recall of that day always brought a real big (Exclamative) smile! To this day, they are still good, happy, funny friends. Frog and Toad who can now find their way to Big John’s house will always visit their friend from the woods.
Which, if any, linguistic focus features of prosody are apparent in 3rd grade children’s oral reading? So, children generally did mark linguistic focus features in their reading prosody.
Do fluent readers display linguistic focus features more sharply than less fluent readers? If linguistic focusing is an aspect of fluency, children who read fluently should also show strong linguistic focus pitch and amplitude effects, strong sentence pitch changes, and reduced intra-sentential pausing. We determined scores for linguistic focusing, sentence effects, and fluency for each child: • Calculated linguisticfocusing effects for each child by subtracting the prosody of unfocused from focused text segments for contrastive, quotative, and exclamative target segments • Calculated sentence effects by subtracting pitch in Hz of last syllable from the beginning word, prop. pausing (silence between words > 100 ms.) for simple declarative and yes-no question target sentences: • Calculated a fluency score by factor analyzing the cwpm and sight word efficiency and creating a fluency factor score for each child.
Hypothetical Fluency Model Unfortunately, didn’t converge Katz & Selkirk (2012) suggest that, for linguistic focusing, intensity may simply track changes in pitch, so we dropped intensity variables.
Final Fluency Model Well-fitting model: 2 (19, N = 120) = 26.01, p = .13 RMSEA = .051 SRMR = .071 CFI = .96 IFI = .96
Conclusions • Fluent readers mark linguistic focus along with sentence-level information in their oral reading prosody. • When developing reading fluency, good reading prosody develops rather generally. • Children seem to bring much of their understanding about the prosody of spontaneous speech into their oral readings as they gain reading fluency. • Attainment of generally appropriate reading prosody can then serve as a marker of reading fluency with measures of reading rate and accuracy.
Implications for Instruction • For assessment: • Reading prosody should be measured whenever fluency is measured: NAEP fluency scale (Pinnell et al., 1995), Multidimensional Fluency Scoring Guide (Rasinski et al., 2009), or Comprehensive Oral Reading Fluency Scale (Benjamin et al., 2013). • For instruction: • Teachers should reasonably ask children to read text with appropriate intonation during oral reading practice • They should serve as a model of good reading prosody while reading text to children • We do not see any benefit to having an exaggerated emphasis on reading prosody, however, relative to other emphases that we might have in reading instruction (see Ardoin et al., 2013).