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Psycholinguistics of stress

• The common understanding of stress implies a
body reaction to external impact.
• Stress is considered an important health risk
factor that produces significant health burden
(e.g. PTSD and depression).
• The two main stress-related scientific issues
are stress identification and control
Claude Bernard
The first research
• Claude Bernard and the theory of
homeostasis: a body mechanism that
stabilizes body internal medium.
Walter Bradford Cannon
The first research (Contd)
• Walter Cannon and the theory of fight-or -
flee reaction: external impact launches a set
of physiological reaction proving aggressive or
escape response.
Janos (Hans) Selye
Theory of Adaptation Syndrome
• The body reaction to external impact is the
same regardless the nature of the impact.
• Later the term stress was used to denote
Adaptation Syndrome which is now involved
in many scientific domains including
psychology and psycholinguistics
The Nature of Stress
• Stress is a physiologic reaction of the body to
various “stressors”
• Stress results in the body organ mobilization
which provides for fight-or-flee response
• Chronic stress adversely affects the body
causing changes in the central nerve system
and endocrinal glands
• Stress manifests itself in many ways e.g.
fatigue of mental disorders.
The nature of stress (Contd.)
• No external impact i.e. no stressors provide
adverse effect causing the condition of
monotony which may result in various
physiological and mental problems
• People isolated from germ for a long time e.g.
in remote outposts or in space loose their
immunity to diseases resulting from no
stressor impact and defensive reaction
slowing down
The Stress Stages
• Alarm
• Resistance
• Exhaustion

• When you face any danger, your nervous system
immediately sends an emergency signal to your brain. All
the different body parts and their functions coordinate to
either fight or flee away from the danger.
• You get more energy and your limbs work faster. This is
clearly visible in your facial expressions as fear or tension.
• Primary stress. This stage of stress can be due to an actual
event such as an accident. you could cause your stress like
Secondary stress e.g. when you are appearing for
an important examination.
• The general indications of this stage are your fast breathing
with sweating and accelerated heart beat which leads to
higher blood pressure and indigestion.
• When you do not get any relief from the first stage of
stress, you slowly start feeling a reduction in your energy
levels. However, still you want to keep fighting the danger.
Hence, you feel exasperated and are impatient with trivial
• You miss your sleep schedules and find your resistance
breaking. Your body reacts by releasing the stored sugars
and fats into your system. This leads to defined changes
in your physical and mental behavioral patterns.
• The normal indications of this level are exhaustion,
weariness, anxiousness, and being forgetful. You start
smoking and drinking more to come out of your stress.
Being weak, you are an easy target for colds and flu.
• When stress continues beyond the second stage
and you do not adhere to remedial measures,
the final stress stage of exhaustion settles in.
• You are now totally tired and drained out of all
energy. You do not even have the desire or the
drive to do your work or live your life.
• This stage symbolizes a breakdown of your
system and your basic physical existence itself.
This leads to loss of mental equilibrium and
extreme complications such as heart diseases,
blood pressure, and ulcers.
Stress Theory Criticism
• The theory suggest endocrinal rather than
central nerve system mechanism of response
• The theory does not analyses psychological
and psych0somatic stress mechanisms
Stress-Related Health Issues
• The health burden of stress is about 13% of all
Non-Contagious Diseases including depression
and anxiety.
• The health burden of alcoholism, drug abuse,
obesity and suicide is by 50% stress-related
Combating Stress
• Stress identification and evaluation
• Stress control (the evaluation of the therapy
Stress Evaluation
• Physiological parameters assessment: blood
pressure, sweating, eye movement.
• Advantages: accurate, allows time trend
• Disadvantages: close contact necessary,
invasive, requires 24h cqualified personnel
and equipment
Stress Evaluation
• Speech assessment: stress reactions are
manifested in the changes of regular speech
• Advantages: no complex equipment is necessary,
no immediate contact is necessary – speech over
the phone can be analyzed, quick assessment
• Disadvantages: requires specially trained
personnel, less accurate, requires continuous
database update.
Speech in Stress Conditions
• The speech patterns – pronunciation, word
choice, grammar structures – change
• The speech tempo, pitch and tone changes
• The patterns of the changes are typical for
certain culture and gender.
Eleonora Lvovna Nosenko
Speech in the State
of Emotional Tension
• Emotional tension is the external
manifestation of stress resulting from changes
in regular behavioral patterns.
• The changes usually involve decreased
timeframe for decision-making causing
• Speech is adapted to the situation
Verbal Changes in the
State of Emotional Tension
• 1) Speech motor parameters change
compared to normal: speech tempo and
volume increase or decrease, pitch and timbre
may break; pauses and inhalations interrupt
the utterance, which is often left unfinished.
• 2) The number of hesitation pauses rises, the
pauses are accompanied by non-phonologic
vocal formations (ee, khh, etc.) whose number
doubles compared to non-agitated state.
Verbal Changes in the
State of Emotional Tension (Contd.)
• 3) The grammar changes: the number of nouns
and verbs increases in relation to adjectives and
proverbs, the speech becomes more dynamic.
• 4) The lexical content is simplified: the speaker
chooses shorter and more frequently used words.
The number of parasite words, neologisms and
erroneously used words increases. The speaker
tends to repeat phrases, words or morphemes.
Experimental Studies
• In many occupations a real-time emotional
evaluation is crucial (e.g. pilots, flight
controllers, spacemen, etc.)
• Comparison of speech parameters with those
in a database enables automatic (computer-
assisted ) evaluation
Associative Experiment
• Reveals the changes in the associative fields in
various emotional conditions
• Provides a reliable data for comparison
• Easily interpretable results
• Requires time for a pilot and experimental
Semantic Differential Experiment
• Reveals the changes in the semantic space in
various emotional conditions
• Provides reliable data for comparison and
• Interpretation of results is controversial
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