A Corpus-Based Exploration of the Functions of Disaligned Pitch Peaks in American English Dialog

Nigel G. Ward

Speech Prosody 2018

Abstract: The exact positioning of pitch peaks often has communicative significance, but the meanings and functions this conveys have never been systematically studied. This paper reports an exploration of one basic aspect of this in one language. The phenomenon is that of ``disaligned pitch peaks,'' that is, peaks which, contrary to the usual tendency, are not aligned with a strong energy peak. The language is American English as used in naturally-occurring two-person interactions. To find examples, I developed a model to automatically estimate the extent to which a speech signal exhibits a strong pitch peak that is not aligned with an energy peak. Examination of examples revealed mmany pragmatic functions associated with disaligned pitch peaks, including suggesting, grounding, implying, and expressing appreciation, most of which have not been previously noted.

Full Paper (pdf)

See also Late Pitch Peak and its Functions, Chapter 6 of Prosodic Patterns in English Conversation.

Audio Illustrations

Raised black circles () indicate stronger instances of disaligned peaks, and raised open circles () relatively weaker instances (see paper for details).
  1. Questions
  2. Grounding
  3. Partial Agreement
  4. Laughter
  5. Suggestions
  6. Liking
  7. Implication
  8. Speculation
  9. Disprefered Response
  10. Mixed Feelings
  11. Hopes and Wishes
  12. Correcting a Misconception
  13. Starting a List
  14. Seeking Confirmation
  15. Seeking Feedback
  16. Reported Speech
  17. Offering or Inviting
  18. Requesting
  19. Distress
  20. Telling a Story

A sarcastic use:

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