Challenges in Studying Intonation and its Pragmatic Functions


Special issue of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association, to appear, early 2018.

Amalia Arvaniti, editor; Oliver Niebuhr and Nigel Ward, guest editors.


Contents

Preface: Challenges for Models of Pragmatics-Related Prosody (working title)
Oliver Niebuhr and Nigel Ward
link to the paper at the journal website coming soon

Melodic constructions in Spanish: Metrical structure determines the association properties of intonational tones
Francisco Torreira and Martine Grice
link to the paper at the journal website coming soon

On some functions of salient initial accents in French talk-in-interaction: Intonational meaning and the interplay of prosodic, verbal and sequential properties of talk
Rasmus Persson
link to the paper at the journal website coming soon

The purpose shapes the vocative: Prosodic realisation of Colombian Spanish vocatives
Clara Huttenlauch, Ingo Feldhausen, and Bettina Braun
link to the paper at the journal website coming soon

What’s in a word: Sounding sarcastic in British English
Aoju Chen and Lou Boves
link to the paper at the journal website coming soon


Abstracts

Melodic constructions in Spanish: Metrical structure determines the association properties of intonational tones. Francisco Torreira and Martine Grice
This paper explores phrase-length-related alternations in the association of tones to positions in metrical structure in two melodic constructions of Spanish. An imitation-and-completion task eliciting (a) the low-falling-rising contour and (b) the circumflex contour on phrases of one, two, and three prosodic words revealed that, although the focus structure and pragmatic context is constant across conditions, phrases containing one prosodic word differ in their nuclear (i.e. final) pitch accents and edge tones from phrases containing more than one prosodic word. For contour (a), short phrases (e.g. [Manolo]IP) were produced with a low accent followed by a high edge tone (L* H% in ToBI notation), whereas longer phrases (e.g. [El hermano de la amiga de Manolo]IP ‘Manolo’s friend’s brother’) had a low accent on the first stressed syllable, a rising accent on the last stressed syllable, and a low edge tone (L* L+H* L%). For contour (b), short phrases were produced with a high-rise (L+H* ¡H%), whereas longer phrases were produced with an initial accentual rise followed by an upstepped rise-fall (L+H* ¡H* L%). These findings imply that the common practice of describing the structure of intonation contours as consisting of a constant nuclear pitch accent and following edge tone is not adequate for modeling Spanish intonation. To capture the observed melodic alternations, we propose a clearer separation between tones and metrical structure, whereby intonational tones do not necessarily have an intrinsic culminative or delimitative function (i.e. as pitch accents or as edge tones). Instead, this function results from melody-specific principles of tonal-metrical association.

On some functions of salient initial accents in French talk-in-interaction: Intonational meaning and the interplay of prosodic, verbal and sequential properties of talk. Rasmus Persson
The question of whether and how intonation patterns bear meanings is an old one, usually evaluated with reference to imagined or elicited speech. This study takes an interactional linguistic approach instead, examining intonation and meaning in naturally occurring interaction. The pattern considered here is a French intonation contour involving a salient initial accent and a low primary accent. This intonation pattern could be analysed as the so-called accent d’insistance, which is often said to have pragmatic meanings such as intensification and contrastive focus. This article analyses the uses of this contour in repeats. When used in repeats of an interlocutor’s speech, the contour indicates unproblematic receipt of the repeated talk, making a confirming response optional, and contrasts with a final rise pattern used in repeats that initiate repair and request confirmation. However, in two other types of repetitions (self-repetition of a previously made assessment, and modified self-repetition for correction purposes), there is indeed interactional evidence supporting the argument that the contour helps convey the pragmatic meanings intensification and contrastive focus, respectively. It is argued that all of these meanings are achieved through the interplay of semiotic resources of several kinds (prosodic, verbal and sequential properties of talk), and that the contour itself has no inherent, context-independent meaning. The empirical findings presented suggest that the autonomy of intonation in the achievement of meaning has been overemphasised.

The purpose shapes the vocative: Prosodic realisation of Colombian Spanish vocatives. Clara Huttenlauch, Ingo Feldhausen, and Bettina Braun
The question of whether intonation contours directly signal meaning is an old one. We revisit this question using vocatives in Colombian Spanish (Bogotá). We recorded speakers' productions in three pragmatic conditions – greeting, confirmation-seeking, and reprimand – and compared proper names (vocatives) to situation-specific one-word utterances, such as hola 'hello' (non-vocatives). Intonational analyses showed no direct one-to-one correspondence between the pragmatic conditions and intonation contours: (a) for vocatives, e.g., a rising–falling contour occurred in both greetings and reprimands, (b) for non-vocatives, e.g., a step-down contour (a.k.a. calling contour) occurred in both greeting and confirmation-seeking conditions. Looking beyond intonation to consider other phonetic variables – spectral tilt, duration, alignment of tonal targets, f0-range, f0-slope – the results showed that the intonation contours that occurred in more than one pragmatic condition differed in phonetic realisation: e.g., rising–falling vocatives showed differences in f0-range of the rise and spectral tilt. However, the corresponding non-vocatives did not show the same differences. Furthermore, vocatives in greeting contexts were realised differently than non-vocatives in greeting contexts. In sum, the pragmatic condition affects the prosodic realisation of (non-)vocatives, but the relationship is complex. The results are discussed in the light of prosodic constructions, leading to the conclusion that the prosodic realisation of vocatives and non-vocatives in Bogotá Colombian Spanish cannot be easily modelled by prosodic constructions.

What’s in a word: Sounding sarcastic in British English. Aoju Chen and Lou Boves
Using a ‘simulated telephone conversation’ task, we elicited sarcastic production in different utterance types (i.e. declaratives, tag questions and wh-exclamations) from native speakers of the southern variety of British English. Unlike previous studies which focus on static prosodic measurements at the utterance level (e.g. mean pitch, pitch span, intensity), we examined both static prosodic measurements and continuous changes in contour shape in the semantically most important words (or key words) of the sarcastic utterances and their counterparts in the sincere utterances. To this end, we adopted Functional Data Analysis to model pitch variation as contours and represent the contours as continuous function in statistical analysis. We found that sarcasm and sincerity are prosodically distinguishable in the key words alone. The key words in sarcastic utterances are realised with a longer duration and a flatter fall than their counterparts in sincere utterances regardless of utterance types and speaker gender. These results are compatible with previous reports on the use of a smaller pitch span and a slower speech rate in sarcastic utterances than in sincere utterances in North American English. We also observed notable differences in the use of minimum pitch, maximum pitch and contour shape in different utterance types and in the use of mean pitch and duration by male and female speakers. Additionally, we found that the prosody of the key words in sarcastic utterances and their counterparts in sincere utterances has yielded useful predictors for the presence (or absence) of sarcasm in an utterance. Together, our results lend direct support to a key word-based approach. However, the prosodic predictors alone can achieve only an accuracy of 63.2%, suggesting a need to examine additional prosodic parameters and prosody beyond the key words.


Related Sites

Prosodic Constructions in Dialog
maintained by Nigel Ward