Prosodic boundary incongruences in oral reading




Oral reading, Actor identification, Prosodic boundaries


Background: Characteristics of oral readings are well studied in school-aged children and teenagers, but not in educated adults. Objectives: Assess the prevalence of prosodic boundary incongruences in oral readings of adult, native, educated, Brazilian Portuguese speakers and analyze their correlations with specific linguist features. Design, settings, and participants: We studied an online video corpus of political speeches delivered by house members of the Brazilian parliament between 2017 and 2018, and their respective written texts. Measurements: We assessed a) prosodic boundary incongruences between oral readings and written texts, b) actor prototypicality of the subjects, c) thematic continuity of the sentences, and d) a variable called 'sufficiency', related to the concept of argumenthood, assorting each word according to its need for complementary words. The inter-rater reliability of the author's perceptions of incongruences underwent Cohen's Kappa test. Results: In 5 hours of oral readings, we found a median of 1.4 prosodic boundary incongruences per minute (interquartile range: 0.766 - 2.212). 80% of the incongruences were insertions of non-terminal or terminal boundaries. Prosodic boundary incongruency correlated positively with a) thematic continuity of the incongruent sentences (p-value = 0.0006345), b) the concept of 'sufficiency' (p-value < 2.2e-16); and correlated negatively with c) first-person subjects (p-value = 0.0002584). Limitations: The assessment of the variables was subjective, and we did not control sentences for their lengths when analyzing variables 'b' and 'c'. Conclusions: Prosodic boundary incongruences were relatively common in our corpus. We introduced some hypotheses to explain the results.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

André Luiz de Faria Leite, University of Brasília

Postgraduate Program in Linguistics, University of Brasilia

Aveliny Mantovan Lima, University of Brasilia

Professor of the Postgraduate Program in Linguistics and the Phonoaudiology Course, University of Brasilia


O’Connell DC., Kowal S. Fluency and Hesitation. In: Communicating with One Another. Cognition and Language: A Series in Psycholinguistics. Springer, New York, NY; 2008.

Barbosa P, Raso, T. A segmentação da fala espontânea: aspectos prosódicos, funcionais e aplicações para a tecnologia. Revista de Estudos da Linguagem. 2018 Oct; 26(4):1397-1433. Available from:

Staub A, Rayner K. Eye movements and on-line comprehension processes. In: The Oxford Handbook Of Psycholinguistics. New York: Oxford University Press; 2007. p. 326-342.

Dehaene S. Reading in the brain: the science and evolution of a human invention. Penguin Books, New York, NY; 2009.

Coltheart M. Modeling Reading: the dual-route approach. In: The Science of Reading: A Handbook. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Hoboken, NJ; 2005. p. 6-23. Available from:

Washington, Dc: National Center For Education Statistics, Institute Of Education Sciences, U.s. Department Of Education, 2005. Daane, MC, Mary C, et al. Fourth-Grade Students Reading Aloud: NAEP 2002 Special Study of Oral Reading. [cited 2018 Oct 24] [72 p.]. Available from:

Kuhn M et al. Aligning Theory and Assessment of Reading Fluency: Automaticity, Prosody, and Definitions of Fluency. Reading Research Quarterly. 2010: 45(2): 230-251.

Izre’el S. Syntax, Prosody, Discourse and Information Structure: The case for Unipartite clauses — A View from Spoken Israeli Hebrew. Revista de Estudos da Linguagem. 2018: 26(4): 1675-1726. Available from:

Raso T, Teixeira, B, Barbosa P. Modelling automatic detection of prosodic boundaries for brazilian portuguese spontaneous speech. Journal Of Speech Sciences. 2020: 9: 105-128. Available from:

Landolfi A, Sammarco C, Voghera M. Verbless clauses in Italian, Spanish and English. JADT 2010: 10th International Conference on Statistical Analysis of Textual Data. 2010. p. 1187-1194.

Bornkessel-Schlesewsky I, Schlesewski, M. Competition in argument interpretation: evidence from the neurobiology of language. In: Macwhinney B, Malchukov A, Moravcsik E, editors. Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage. New York: Oxford University Press; 2014. p. 107-126.

Grosz B, Sidner CL. Attention, intentions, and the structure of discourse. Computational Linguistics, Cambridge, Ma. 1986: 12(3): 175-204.

Partee B. Topic, Focus and Quantification. Semantics And Linguistic Theory. 1991: 1: 159.

Haspelmath M. Arguments and Adjuncts as Language-Particular Syntactic Categories and as Comparative Concepts. Linguistic Discovery. 2014: 12(2): 3-11.

Levin B. Argument Structure. Oxford Bibliographies [internet]. New York: Oxford University Press; 2013 [updated 2018 apr 26]. Available from:

Przepiorkowski, A. How not to distinguish arguments from adjuncts in LFG. In: Arnold D, Butt M, Crysmann B, King TH, Muller S, editors. Proceedings of the Joint 2016 Conference on Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar and Lexical Functional Grammar. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications; 2016. p: 560-580.

Merlo P, Ferrer EE. The Notion of Argument in Prepositional Phrase Attachment. Computational Linguistics. 2006: 32(3): 341-378.

Senado Multimídia. Brasil: Senado Federal; [date unkown]. Available from:

Lima AM, Constantini AC. Prosódia e fonoaudiologia: do fonoestilo ao transtorno da linguagem. In: Prosódia da Fala. Editora Edgard Blucher, [S.L.]; 2017. p. 133-144. Available from:

Alday PM, Schlezewsky M, Bornkessel- Schlezewsky I. Towards a Computational Model of Actor-Based Language Comprehension. Neuroinformatics. 2013: 12(1): 143-179.

Botinis A, Granstrom B, Mobius B. Developments and paradigms in intonation research. Speech Communication. 2001: 33(4): p.263-296.

Cresti E, Gregori L, Moneglia M, Panunzi A. The Language into Act Theory: A Pragmatic Approach to Speech in Real-Life. In: Koiso H, Paggio P, editors. Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2018), LB-ILR2018 and MMC2018 Joint Workshop:Language and Body in Real Life Multimodal Corpora 2018: Multimodal Data in the Online World. ELRA, Paris; 2018. p: 20-25.

Alboukadel K. Cohen’s Kappa in R: For Two Categorical Variables [Internet]. [Place unknown]: Datanovia, [Date unknown]. Available from:,-20%20mins&text=This%20process%20of%20measuring%20the,is%20called%20inter%2Drater%20reliability.&text=The%20Cohen%27s%20kappa%20is%20a,that%20removes%20this%20chance%20agreement.

RStudio: Integrated Development for R. Boston (MA): R RStudio Team; 2020. Available from:

Landis JR, Koch GG. The Measurement of Observer Agreement for Categorical Data. Biometrics. 1977: 33(1): p. 159.

Jun, SA, Bishop, J. Priming Implicit Prosody: Prosodic Boundaries and Individual Differences. Language and Speech. 2015: 58(4): p.459–473.

Christiansen M, Chater N. The Now-or-Never bottleneck: A fundamental constraint on language. Behavioral And Brain Sciences. 2015: 39: p.1-72.

Ferreira F, Chantavarin S. Integration and Prediction in Language Processing: A Synthesis of Old and New. Current Directions In Psychological Science. 2018: 27(6): p.443-448.

Vandenbroucke JP, von Elm E, Altman DG, Gøtzsche PC, Mulrow CD, et al. Strengthening the reporting of observational studies in epidemiology (STROBE): explanation and elaboration. PLoS Med. 2007: 4(10): e297.

Chomsky N. Minimal Recursion: exploring the prospects. In: Roeper T, Speas M, editors. Recursion: Complexity in Cognition. [S.L.]: Springer International Publishing; 2014. p. 1-15.

Cowan N. The magical number 4 in short-term memory: a reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behavioral And Brain Sciences. 2001: 24(1): p. 87-114.

Blumenthal-Dramé A, Malaia E. Shared neural and cognitive mechanisms in action and language: The multiscale information transfer framework. Cognitive Science. 2018: 10(2): p.1-18.

Ding N, Melloni, L, Zhang, H et al. Cortical tracking of hierarchical linguistic structures in connected speech. Nat Neurosci. 2016: 19: p. 158–164.

Hilton M et al. Parallels in Processing Boundary Cues in Speech and Action. Frontiers In Psychology. 2019: 10: p.1-12.

Friederici AD. Language Functions in the Brain: From Auditory Input to Sentence Comprehension: Processing Prosodic Information. Language in our brain: the origins of a uniquely human capacity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press; 2017: p. 71-81.




How to Cite

Leite AL de F, Lima AM. Prosodic boundary incongruences in oral reading. J. of Speech Sci. [Internet]. 2021Nov.8 [cited 2022Jan.17];10(00):e021001. Available from: