Pelle Söderström

Pelle Söderström

Researcher

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Research

My research investigates the neurophysiological underpinnings of spoken language processing, with particular focus on predictive mechanisms. Having completed my doctoral studies at Lund University in 2017, I am currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at the MARCS Institute, Western Sydney University, supported by the Swedish Research Council, in collaboration with Professor Anne Cutler.

My thesis project investigated the way in which prosody is processed in the brain, with a particular focus on the Swedish word accents, as well as sentence-level phenomena known as ’left-edge boundary tones’. It was found that listeners take advantage of prosody to anticipate what is coming up, both within words and at the sentence level.

There are two word accents in Swedish: ‘accent 1’ and ‘accent 2’. In Central Swedish, accent 1 is realised as a low tone on the stressed vowel of a word, while accent 2 is realised as a high tone. Each Swedish word has a word accent and there is a productive tone-grammar association between suffixes and word accents. For example, the singular noun suffix -en attached to a word stem means that the stem will be associated with accent 1 (e.g. 'båten', 'the boat'), while the plural suffix -ar is associated with accent 2 ('båtar', 'boats'). Consequently, word accents lend themselves well to the study of prediction of grammatical structures. Similarly, sentence-level boundary tones are used by Swedish listeners to anticipate upcoming sentence structure. The association between prosody and morphology/syntax thus allows us to look more closely at how structural cues can lead to the pre-activation of material in language processing.

In my thesis project, I identified a brain signal – the pre-activation negativity (PrAN) – which is tied to the certainty with which upcoming information can be anticipated. My postdoctoral research at the MARCS Institute aims to expand on and use previous findings to further investigate rapid brain responses to spoken language.

UKÄ subject classification

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics

Keywords

  • speech processing
  • neuroimaging
  • neurophysiology
  • prosody
  • EEG
  • ERP
  • fMRI

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