God as Interlocutor — Real or Imaginary? Prosodic Markers of Dialogue Speech and Expected Efficacy in Spoken Prayer

Oliver Niebuhr, Uffe Schjoedt


We analyze the phonetic correlates of petitionary prayer in 22 Christian practitioners. Our aim is to examine if praying is characterized by prosodic markers of dialogue speech and expected efficacy. Three similar conditions are compared; 1) requests to God, 2) requests to a human recipient, 3) requests to an imaginary person. We find that making requests to God is clearly distinguishable from making requests to both human and imaginary interlocutors. Requests to God are, unlike requests to an imaginary person, characterized by markers of dialogue speech (as opposed to monologue speech), including, a higher f0 level, a larger f0 range, and a slower speaking rate. In addition, requests to God differ from those made to both human and imaginary persons in markers of expected efficacy on the part of the speaker. These markers are related to a more careful speech production, including almost complete lack of hesitations, more pauses, and a much longer speaking time.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1193

Cite as: Niebuhr, O., Schjoedt, U. (2019) God as Interlocutor — Real or Imaginary? Prosodic Markers of Dialogue Speech and Expected Efficacy in Spoken Prayer. Proc. Interspeech 2019, 36-40, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1193.


@inproceedings{Niebuhr2019,
  author={Oliver Niebuhr and Uffe Schjoedt},
  title={{God as Interlocutor — Real or Imaginary? Prosodic Markers of Dialogue Speech and Expected Efficacy in Spoken Prayer}},
  year=2019,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2019},
  pages={36--40},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1193},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1193}
}