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Synchronized Speaking: What speaking together can tell us about skilled action

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Speech has conventionally been considered as the kind of thing that is done by one person at a time. Yet there are many situations in which we speak by saying the same thing at the same time: in classrooms, churches, temples, sports stadia, and on the street. Joint speaking has not yet been subject to scientific study, which is surprising, given its rich embedding in cultural and educational practices throughout the world. There are many questions we may ask in this domain.

A laboratory variant of joint speaking, which I call Synchronous Speech, has revealed some characteristics of joint speech that are of potential interest to phoneticians and cognitive scientists. Speakers can speak fluently while remaining in very tight synchrony with a co-speaker, even when reading novel texts. This particular form of synchronized action has some characteristics that make it different from every other case in which people synchronize skilled action. I will suggest that we might begin to develop an account in which two synchronized speakers are usefully regarded as a transiently assembled single system, rather than as two entirely separate systems.

This talk is part of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education (CNE) series.

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