Tice Dissertation Presentation Thursday

We’re pleased to announce that Marisa Tice is giving her dissertation oral presentation on Thursday, March 21 from 2-3pm in the Greenberg Room. The format for this open part of the oral exam is a 30-45 minute talk by the PhD candidate followed by questions by those attending, for a total of no more than one hour, so make sure to come promptly!

Taking turns on time: Perception and production processes involved in keeping inter-speaker gaps short
Across human cultures children learn language through their interactions with caregivers and peers. These early interactions, whatever form they take, are the basis for children’s linguistic development, and result in something we universally recognize as human language. Children’s linguistic development depends on their simultaneous acquisition of language use skills, and here I present my work on one such skill: turn-taking.

Turn-taking is a requisite skill for conversation that patterns similarly across cultures: interlocutors switch between one turn and the next in less than 200 ms on average. This quick timing in a back-and-forth turn structure forms a perfect framework for contingent action, allowing us to achieve fine-grained behavioral coordination and mutual estimations of common ground via rapid feedback and conversational repair. A turn-based framework is key to our interactive efficiency, but it also shapes children’s language-learning environments. Children begin to take turns (of a sort) long before their first words, but their mastery of turn-timing is a protracted process during which their responses are significantly delayed in comparison to adults.

In a series of studies focusing on the production and perception of speech by adults and children ages 1-6, I explored the development of turn-taking skill and its relation to linguistic development. I found that turn-timing is intimately linked to children’s linguistic development. Both in their production and perception of conversational speech, children become sensitive to different types of exchanges as they acquire new linguistic knowledge. Advances in their syntactic and prosodic knowledge during development result in a non-linear trajectory of turn-timing over their first few years. I discuss the implications of this tight relationship between linguistic processing and turn-structure, both for language learning and predictive processing during adult online language comprehension. By focusing on a signature property of human conversation, the ultimate goal of this research is to better conceptualize how the fundamental principles of human interaction shape human language use and structure.

Dissertation committee: Eve Clark (chair), Herb Clark (Psychology), Robert Podesva, Michael Frank (Psychology)
University oral exam chair: Clifford Nass (Communication)