International Symposium on Chinese Spoken Language Processing (ISCSLP 2002)

Taipei, Taiwan
August 23-24, 2002

A Cross-linguistic Study on Discourse and Syntactic Boundary Cues in Spontaneous Speech: Using Duration as an Example

Janice Fon

Department of English, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan

This study focuses on the acoustic-phonetic cues at discourse and syntactic boundaries in English, Guoyu, Putonghua, and Japanese. Speech was elicited by having talkers describe the events in The Pear Story film. Recorded data were transcribed and segmented into discourse and syntactic units. Acoustic-phonetic measurements of syllable duration and syllable onset intervals (SOIs) were taken on the digitized data. A comparison of discourse/syntax and acoustics was made in order to examine boundary cues in speech. Results showed that final lengthening of boundary syllables and SOIs is the most universal cue for signaling structural boundaries, and the degree of final SOI lengthening is reflective of disjuncture hierarchy. However, there are also language-specific cues. In English, in addition to final lengthening, initial pitch-accented syllables and SOIs are also lengthened. In Guoyu and Putonghua, the scope of final syllable lengthening is widened to include the penultimate syllable. English and Putonghua are similar to each other in that there is no reflection of hierarchy in the degree of final syllable lengthening, while Guoyu and Japanese are more alike in this regard since both languages show some reflection of hierarchy through the degree of boundary syllable lengthening. Bigger structural boundaries are signaled by a smaller degree of lengthening.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Fon, Janice (2002): "A cross-linguistic study on discourse and syntactic boundary cues in spontaneous speech: using duration as an example", In ISCSLP 2002, paper 89.