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The Sound of Pedagogical Questions

  • Author(s): Bascandziev, Igor
  • Shafto, Patrick
  • Bonawitz, Elizabeth
  • et al.
Abstract

Questions are prevalent in everyday speech and they are often used to teach. When learners receive explicit cues that the intent of a question is pedagogical, they draw inferences that lead to superior learning. Although the ability to infer pedagogical intent is critical, very little is known about the mechanisms that support the inference that any particular statement is pedagogical or not. We tested the hypothesis that the prosody of speech marks the intent of pedagogical and information-seeking questions. In Studies 1 and 2, 256 naïve participants rated 100 pedagogical and information-seeking questions, spoken in child- or adult-directed speech. We found that naïve listeners can accurately infer pedagogical intent on the basis of prosody alone. In Study 3, we begin charting the acoustic features that differentiate pedagogical from information-seeking questions. These findings provide a window into the mechanisms that allow learners to infer pedagogical intent in otherwise ambiguous situations.

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