ESR2: Brain markers of between-speaker convergence in conversational speech

PhD Fellow: Dorina de Jong

My name is Dorina de Jong and I grew up on Terschelling, one of the beautiful Frisian Islands in the north of the Netherlands. To get to know more about how humans perceive and interact with others and the world around them, I moved to Amsterdam, where I completed my BSc in Psychobiology at the University of Amsterdam. Eager to learn even more, I finished my research masters in Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences at the University of Groningen, also in the Netherlands.

I am currently working as an early-stage researcher at the Center for Translational Neurophysiology of Speech and Communication at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Ferrara under the supervision of Alessandro D’Ausilio and the co-supervision of Noël Nguyen (Aix-Marseille Université) and Susanne Fuchs (Humboldt-Universität and ZAS). My research project is focused on revealing the neural markers of behavioural speech alignment during conversations.


When people are engaged in meaningful social interaction, they automatically and implicitly adjust their speech, vocal patterns and gestures to accommodate to others. Although these processes have extensively been explored at the behavioral level, very little is known about their neural underpinnings. Prior investigations have shown that suppression of alpha oscillations, overlaying sensorimotor regions, are a possible marker of action-perception coupling during non-speech interactive tasks (Tognoli & Kelso, 2015). The project, by running dual-EEG recordings, will investigate if behavioral speech alignment translates into identifiable brain oscillatory markers. Key objectives are (i) to develop and validate metrics to quantify phonetic accommodation during natural speech interactions and (ii) to identify electrophysiological markers of between-speaker convergence.

Expected results:

  • A computational pipeline to extract accommodation phonetic patterns from audio data of speakers engaged in a meaningful social interaction;
  • A significant contribution to the emerging field of hyper-scanning by exploring the neurophysiological correlates of phonetic convergence during conversations.

Based in Ferrara, Italy

Full-time three-year contract, starting September 2020

PhD enrolment at: University of Ferrara

Main supervisor’s institution: Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ferrara

Main supervisor: Prof Alessandro D’Ausilio


  • Aix-Marseille University: making-up of linguistic material in both Italian and French, contribution to design of experimental set-up and to phonetic analyses (5,5 months);
  • Humboldt University and Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS), Berlin: Assessment of a repertoire of metrics for measuring phonetic convergence in conversational speech (5 months).

Co-supervisors’ institutions:

  • Aix-Marseille University, France
  • Humboldt University and Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS), Berlin, Germany

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