The Integration of Laughter and Speech in Vocal Communication: A Dynamic Systems Perspective

Nwokah, Eva E.; Hsu, Hui-Chin; Davies, Patricia; Fogel, Alan
August 1999
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Aug1999, Vol. 42 Issue 4, p880
Academic Journal
Laughter in infant-directed speech was examined in 13 mother-infant pairs to investigate the possible co-occurrence of speech and laughter. Contrary to previous findings in adult-adult social interaction, all mothers produced speech simultaneously with laughter in up to 50% of laughs. In most of these speech-laughs the onset of laugh and speech was simultaneous. Laughter occurred on both function and content words and was more likely to occur on approximately 2 words and on utterances that were statements rather than questions or exclamations. Laughter and speech are different outcomes produced from a reorganization of the same vocal/anatomical parameters. A 3rd outcome is possible in the form of speech-laughs utilizing features from both laughter and speech. In speech-laughs, the duration of the vocalization was more likely to increase, and the charges in the utterance were likely to include 1 or more of the features of vowel elongation, syllabic pulsation, breathiness, and pitch change. These findings and individual variations in the resulting vocal output are discussed from a dynamic systems perspective. It is argued that neither speech nor laughter is dominant when both are combined, but that this is a more complex vocal outcome produced with idiosyncratic flexibility within stable temporal and physiological constraints.


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