Acoustic Features of the Prosodic Elements of Speech

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Chapter 1 outlined the actor’s communicative context and concluded that the actor is tasked with embodying the playwright’s text or the text that emerges during the devising process to portray the character’s intent to the audience. In doing so, the actor draws on his inner resources and applies body and voice to portray the character and the character’s intent. This generates specific challenges for L2 actors and this study proposes that the prosodic elements of speech could potentially contribute to the delivery of this intent. In order to determine how the actor could be trained to creatively apply the prosodic elements of speech in performance, it would be relevant to assess related strategies that exist in contemporary actor-training to build on these in the development of explorations that would aid the actor in creatively applying the prosodic elements of speech to convey the character’s intent.
This chapter initiates phase one of the research process and considers the approaches to actor-training9 applied in the research context, being a Drama Department with a multilingual student body.
The L2 actors-in-training that I work with receive training in a variety of approaches. When engaging in creative work with L2 actors-in-training, it is important to consider the training approaches that they are exposed to as the theatre-making process serves as praxis application of the student actor’s acting, theatre-voice and movement training. For this reason, I sought to connect the explorations aimed at enhancing prosodic expression to the approaches that they have or will encounter in acting class.
Therefore, the acting methods, systems and approaches10 are examined from a perspective that the actor employs inner resources, body and voice to portray the character and that these elements are integrated within the actor as a dynamic system. Merlin (2001:39) refers to the subtle interplay between the emotion, the thoughts and the actions within the actor and suggests that the successful actor learns to tap into this interplay. This implies an embodied paradigm of acting in which the dynamic relationship between the physical (bodyvoice) and the mind and emotion (inner resources) is pivotal. This is relevant to the investigation of the prosodic elements of speech as prosodic expression (vocal – voice and speech) and non-verbal expression (physical – gesture in time and space) do not function independently and intersect within the communication act (Cruttenden, 1997:177; Pell & Monetta., 2008:415). This implies that the actor’s expression of prosody would be influenced by his expression of gesture. Mortimer (2009:233) considers performance historically and asserts that the actor precedes the text and that the physical precedes the linguistic in terms of acting. An investigation into how the actor applies prosody and could potentially apply it optimally would therefore have to include the physical training of the actor.
Prosody portrays linguistic meaning and emotional intent. Thus, the prosodic elements of speech are verbal and vocal manifestations of physical, cogitative, linguistic and emotional activity. It is then apt to consider prosody as embodied, as it spans all aspects of the dynamic human system. For this reason, embodiment in acting is considered in this chapter. The concept of embodiment in acting is discussed with specific reference to the embodiment of text, as this supports the focus of this study. Finally, this chapter provides an overview of specific systems, methods and approaches applied in actor-training. Approaches that are applied in the syllabus of the Drama Programme that serves as the context of this study are explored to consider how these provide strategies to promote the embodiment of text.


Before embodiment is explored within the realm of actor-training, the term embodiment is briefly discussed to establish a base for the investigation of embodied acting and the systems, methods and approaches that promote embodied acting.
Working with L2 actors in a multilingual context, I have noted a need to find commonality, a base from which creative expression could be approached. The body and subsequently the actor’s embodiment serves as a universal that all share and therefore has become a point of reference in exploring creative expression. Although it may seem simple to state that focus could be placed on embodiment as a universal unifier within in a diverse and multilingual context, the construct of embodiment is complex as it implies the systemic connectivity centred in the sense of ‘self.’ I therefore needed to examine the construct of embodiment and its engagement with language to further the search for means to aid the L2 actor’s expression of prosody.
The concept of embodiment is depicted in various contexts and fields with terms such as bodymind, semantics, self-regulation, organism and holistic (Carroll, 2011:240). In simple terms, the construct of embodiment could be summarized as the mind is of the body and the body is of the mind’ (Lutterbie, 2011:30). This implies that the body and mind cannot be separated. Not only does the body house the mind, but the body is the means of interpreting and expressing what is deemed as the ‘mind.’ Therefore, the act of thinking does not occur separately from being (Dourish, 2004:19). Meaning is grounded in the body and reason is an embodied process, suggesting that mind and body cannot be separated in the individual’s personally unique experiences (Johnson, 1999:12-13).
Bresler (2004:7) describes embodiment as a web that integrates thinking, being, doing and interacting with the world. This suggests that what is often categorized as body (doing), mind (thinking) and emotion (feeling) connect as a dynamic integrated system. Thinking can therefore not be separated from being and acting in the world (Dourish, 2004:19). What is deemed ‘mind’ or rational thinking therefore arises from the emotional, bodily and relational (Carroll, 2011:247) as part of an integrated system. One’s experiential embodiment is thus essentially the source of all that is known to the individual (Barrat, 2010:117) as embodiment is the perspective from which the world is experienced (Peters, 2004:19). The body is simultaneously the source and site of human existence (Csordas, 2004138). Therefore, embodiment implies that humans process and act through the physical manifestation of the world (Dourish, 2004:111), which includes the physical embodiment of the body as an object, the bodily skills and situational responses humans develop, and cultural skills and understandings that sprout from the cultural context in which one is rooted (Dourish, 2004:114). It could also be framed as the human body being both the means and object of human labour or action (Williams & Bendelow, 1998). Body and mind or bodymind is therefore interconnected and cannot be experienced in isolation.
The notion of a systemic interconnected bodymind contrasts with historical western thinking, which advocates a dualism in which the body is viewed as a machine, controlled by the mind and subject to the laws of physics (Barrat, 2010:1). This perspective results in contrasting constructs such as mind vs body, reason vs emotion, society vs biology and object vs subject (Williams & Bendelow, 1998:18). These contrasting constructs suggest a duality of one or the other, which conflicts with what is understood as embodiment. Embodiment implies a sense of self, connected by reflection of self. Such reflection marks the coming together of mind and body, which results in reflection. There is not only reflection on lived experiences, but the reflection becomes the experience (Varela et al., 1993:27). Lutterbie (2011:28) concurs that the three categories have wrongfully been assigned as body, mind and emotion and are viewed as somehow operating separately, whereas these are three integral parts of one system that are in constant discourse with one another. Embodiment could therefore be described as a process rather than a state (Carroll, 2011:255) in which the mind is integrated in the physical body, therefore the term ‘mind-full body’ (Sheets-Johonstone, 2007). The body is then no longer viewed as merely a vessel for the brain.
Damasio (2010:142) examines the role the brain plays in the integrated being and argues that the brain records entities for later playback. It is not a passive recorder, but engages the body actively. In turn, the body reacts to and is influenced by context as the body cannot be separated from the space in which it lives (Dourish, 2004:18). This implies both space and context, referring to the body’s orientation and movement in space and time and the social and cultural context in which the individual body engages. The orientation of the body in space is therefore key in understanding the construct of embodiment. It is also highly relevant in the context of actor-training as the actor’s body in space is the source of performance (Auslander, 1997:16; Schechner, 2013:13).
The body moves in space and time. Csordas (2011:147) notes that the body’s movement in space and time in effect creates space and time, and by doing so the manner in which it moves influences the space in which it moves. It is arguably the body’s movement in space and time that generates the individual’s understanding of space and time, making embodiment central to the navigation of human existence. Additionally, Barrat (2010:141) refers to the boundary functioning of bodies, implying that the boundaries where one body ends and another begins in space define bodies rather than bodies creating boundaries. Thus one knows one’s own body by its relation to other bodies and objects in space (Burns, 2012:40). Embodiment implies that the body does not function or experience in isolation, but in socio-cultural context.
Varela et al. (1993:51) declare that to be human implies that one is always in a situation or context, thus the individual cannot be separated from the world in which he lives and acts (Dourish, 2008:18). Human experience is therefore dependent on contexts, and as a result the body and the embodied experience are always concrete and individual (Bowman, 2000:43). This implies that the system or process of embodiment reaches beyond self-awareness to extend to social and cultural contexts. According to Ramos-Zayas (2011:27) embodiment extends beyond the conscious sense of ‘self’ to include socially embodied personhood. It is the culmination of one’s experience of the body as flesh and the world in which it exists (Barrat, 2010:93). Thus the body and its lived experience is always social or cultural (Bowman, 2004:44), as every act of interpretation is occupied by the cultural practices that shaped the interpreter (Mans, 2004:78). As a result, daily human interaction could be characterized as both physical and social (Dourish, 2004:99-100). Embodiment constitutes fundamental human existence in relation to the world (Csondas, 2011:137), extending to the culture and experience that the body ‘is’ (Boddy, 2011:120). Different modes of consciousness subsequently manifest in different linguistic and social contexts (Ramos-Zayas, 2011:27). The body becomes a framework for interpreting culture. In turn the social world becomes a framework for the realities in which the body exists (Ramos-Zayas, 2011:38) thus it could be interpreted that the body cannot be separated from culture or social contexts. Williams and Bendelow (1998:28) state that expression is coded by the body, determined by culture and controlled by social demands, indicating that embodiment is subject to cultural and social context.


1.1 Introduction
1.2 Motivation and Rationale
1.3 Problem statement
1.4 Research Question
1.5 Methodology
1.6 Conclusion
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Embodiment
2.3 Embodied Acting
2.4 Embodied Actor-training
2.5 Summary of Actor-training in Relation to Prosody
2.6 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction .
3.2 Acoustic Features of the Prosodic Elements of Speech
3.3 Structural Aspects
3.4 Other Linguistic Functions of Prosody
3.5 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Mainstream Approaches to Actor / Performance-Based Voice and Speech Training
4.3 Core Constructs towards Explorations
4.4 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Overarching Objective of the Explorations
5.3 The Pilot Experiments
5.4 Explorations
5.5 Conclusion
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Objective
6.3 Process
6.4 Reflection on Explorations
6.5 Reflection on the Process
6.6 Conclusion .
7.1 Summary
7.2 Prosody .
7.3 Transferability
7.4 Limitations
7.5 Recommendations for Future Research
7.6 Conclusion

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