Mental simulations in comprehension of direct versus indirect speech quotations.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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In human communication, direct speech (e.g., Mary said: ‘I’m hungry’) coincides with vivid paralinguistic demonstrations of the reported speech acts whereas indirect speech (e.g., Mary said [that] she was hungry) provides mere descriptions of what was said. Hence, direct speech is usually more vivid and perceptually engaging than indirect speech. This thesis explores how this vividness distinction between the two reporting styles underlies language comprehension. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we found that in both silent reading and listening, direct speech elicited higher brain activity in the voice-selective areas of the auditory cortex than indirect speech, consistent with the intuition of an ‘inner voice’ experience during comprehension of direct speech. In the follow-up behavioural investigations, we demonstrated that this ‘inner voice’ experience could be characterised in terms of modulations of speaking rate, reflected in both behavioural articulation (oral reading) and eye-movement patterns (silent reading). Moreover, we observed context-concordant modulations of pitch and loudness in oral reading but not straightforwardly in silent reading. Finally, we obtained preliminary results which show that in addition to reported speakers’ voices, their facial expressions may also be encoded in silent reading of direct speech but not indirect speech.
The results show that individuals are more likely to mentally simulate or imagine reported speakers’ voices and perhaps also their facial expressions during comprehension of direct as opposed to indirect speech, indicating a more vivid representation of the former. The findings are in line with the demonstration hypothesis of direct speech (Clark & Gerrig, 1990) and the embodied theories of language comprehension (e.g., Barsalou, 1999; Zwaan, 2004), suggesting that sensory experiences with pragmatically distinct reporting styles underlie language comprehension.
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