Interspeech'2005 - Eurospeech

Lisbon, Portugal
September 4-8, 2005

Prosodic Realization of Split Noun Phrases in Mandarin Chinese Compared in Topic and Focus Contexts

Bei Wang

University of Potsdam, Germany

The present study investigates the prosodic realization of split noun sentences in Chinese, like ‘shu, wo mai le san ben. (Book, I buy ASP three CLAS. ‘I bought three books.'). The question and answer paradigm was used to induce sentences where the noun was either the topic or the focus. In the topic context, the question was of the form, ‘I heard you bought books and pencils. Is that true?' In the focus context, it was of the form, ‘What did you buy three?' Speech production results show that the prosodic realization of split noun sentences makes the noun a separate intonational phrase. The intonational difference between these two contexts for split noun sentences is not significant. The interesting finding is that the pause after the noun in the topic context is significantly shorter than in the focus context (189ms and 248ms on average, respectively), which shows that the base part is more closely related to the noun in the topic context than in the focus context. In both contexts, there is a pitch accent on the modifier in the base part. These findings give prosodic evidence for Pan's (2003) argument that a focus in the base is a cue that the focused phrase is related to the topicalized split noun. Corresponding perception experiments testing similar question and answer pairs were carried out as well. Results show that the acceptance of split noun sentences is good, and that listeners prefer a longer pause after the noun in the context of focus questions.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Wang, Bei (2005): "Prosodic realization of split noun phrases in Mandarin Chinese compared in topic and focus contexts", In INTERSPEECH-2005, 1389-1392.