Third European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology

Berlin, Germany
September 22-25, 1993


On the Perceived Serial Position of Discourse Units

Marc Swerts, Rene Collier

Institute for Perception Research (IPO), Eindhoven, The Netherlands

One of the possible functions of intonation is its capacity to clarify textual structure. It may, for instance, indicate that a sentence is likely to be the last one in a sequence of statements forming a discourse unit. In order to investigate the effect of melodic cues on the perception of serial position, listening experiments were performed with short sentences, the intonation of which was manipulated with respect to three variables: CONTOUR TYPE (with or without end rise), REGISTER (high or low) and RANGE (narrow or wide). The actual testing concentrated on melodic cues to the 'last position' of an utterance in a spontaneous discourse. Judgments were expressed by absolute rating on a 'finality* scale. An ANOVA revealed that these finality judgments are influenced significantly by CONTOUR TYPE and REGISTER. The effect of RANGE was not significant, but there was a clear tendency for contours with a narrow range to be judged more final than contours with a wide range.

Keywords: intonation, discourse structuretprosodic function

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Swerts, Marc / Collier, Rene (1993): "On the perceived serial position of discourse units", In EUROSPEECH'93, 999-1002.