Prosody Trainer Research Team:

  • Jennifer Gross, Professor of Psychology, Grand Valley State University
  • Tanner Kiesel, English Language & Literature Major, Linguistics Minor, Grand Valley State University
  • Michelle Roldan, Psychology & Pre-Occupational Therapy, Grand Valley State University
  • Madison Esselink, Psychology Major & Social Work Major, Grand Valley State University

Previous Contributors:

  • Andrea Plotkowski
  • Bo Winegard
  • Katelin E. Leahy
  • Tanveer Mangat
  • Joshua Gonzales

Fantastech4 App Developers:

Trevor Sundelius, Team Leader

Alicia Terry

Jamal Stallings

Dan Cook

At all ages, prosody sensitivity plays a role in reading abilities. 

English has a stress-alternating rhythm that is not explicitly marked in print (Fudge, 1984; Treiman & Kessler, 2005). Fluent readers must infer stress and rhythm when reading silently and aloud.  In 5- and 6-year-olds, prosody sensitivity uniquely predicted reading, after controlling for vocabulary knowledge, phonological awareness, and morphological awareness (Holliman et al., 2017). Third graders’ knowledge of lexical prosody when reading aloud from a typical textbook was a significant predictor of oral reading fluency and good reading comprehension (Schwanenflugel & Benjamin, 2016). In high school students, skill in prosodic production predicted reading comprehension among students matched on decoding ability (Breen, Kaswer, Van Dyke, Krivokapić, & Landi, 2016). Prosodic awareness predicted reading achievement in adult readers (Wade-Woolley & Heggie, 2015). Even after controlling for working memory, prosodic awareness accounted for adults’ word-reading abilities (Chan & Wade-Woolley, 2016). Less fluent readers, and those who learn English as a second language, might benefit from prosody training app that draws a more explicit link between the rhythm in speech and the rhythm in writing.

The prosody training app may cultivate prosody sensitivity.

Our ongoing experiments are evaluating whether beginning readers, struggling readers, or late speakers of English might benefit from marking stress explicitly in written English.  Our app players are asked to judge which of the stylistic alterations to the text (poems; nursery rhymes; lyrics, and prose) is “correct”.  In the match condition, the stylistically-induced emphasis maps onto the stress pulses in the text: PEter, PEter, PUMPkin EATer. HAD a WIFE and COULDn’t KEEP her. PUT her IN a PUMPkin SHELL, and THERE he KEPT her VERy WELL. These stylistic enhancements should exaggerate the rhythm in the ‘inner ear’ of our silent readers, based on my team’s previous work (Gross, Winegard & Plotkowski, in press; Gross, Millett, Bartek, Bredell, & Winegard, 2014). In contrast, when the stylistically-induced stress pulses do not map onto the beats (e.g., peTER, peTER, pumpKIN eatER. had A wife AND couldN’T keep HER. put HER in A pumpKIN shell, AND there HE kept HER very), silent readers should “hear” the dissonance caused by the meter clashing with the stylistically-induced stress pulses.  English orthography is underspecified with regard to rhythm and stress.  This app transforms ordinary text to rhythmically enhanced text.  Can YOU iMAGine an APP that HELPS you HEAR the RHYTHm of TEXT?

For more information:

Gross, J., Millett, A.L., Bartek, B., Bredell, K.H., Winegard, B. (2014). Evidence for prosody in reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 49(2), 189-208. doi:10.1002/rrq.67

Gross, J., Winegard, B., Plotkowski, A. R., (in press). Marking stress exPLICitly in written English fosters rhythm in the reader’s inner voice. Reading Research Quarterly.