ISCA Workshop on Plasticity in Speech Perception (PSP2005)

Senate House, London, UK
June 15-17, 2005

Perception of New, Given and Contrastive Information in Taiwanese

Ho-hsien Pan, Wan-Ting Huang, Ying-Hui Huang

National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan

In plastic language such as Dutch, information status could modify accent distribution, thus perception of focus in Dutch depends on accent distribution within sentences (Cutler 1984; Krahmer and Swerts 2001; Krahmer, Ruttkay et al. 2002; Swerts, Krahmer et al. 2002). However, in Italian, a non-plastic language, information status does not influence accent distribution, thus perception of focus relies on gradient expansion of f0 range on focused syllable without chaning the location of pitch accent (D'Imperio 2001; Swerts, Krahmer et al. 2002). The perception of focus in a tone language, such as Taiwan Mandarin has been underinvestigated. Using spontaneous Taiwan Mandarin data, this study investigated the acoustic parameters signaling given, new, and contrastive information. Sentences produced with variation in focus were acoustically compared. Sentences were collected through games in which speakers must identify the location of objects within a 4X4 matrix. In the first game, speakers responded to questions, such as "What is next to the black cat?" and "The black cat is next to what?" and placed new information on the NP1 or NP2. In the second game, speakers responded to sentences, such as "The black cat is next to the brown fruit." by placing contrastive information on either the adjective or the noun of the NP1 or NP2. In the third game, speakers named the objects with respect to other objects in the matrix and placed broad focus on the entire utterance. These productions were used in two perceptual experiments, (1) a dialogue history experiment, of which listeners identified the questions preceding the sentences, and (2) a synthetic speech experiment, of which f0 range and duration for syllable carrying given information was gradually increased to investigate the threshold required to perceive the same syllable as carrying new information. Preliminary results showed that although both F0 range expansion and duration elongation were observed in the NP carrying new and contrastive information, listeners paid more attention to duration elongation than f0 range expansion during the dalogue hitory experiment. In the synthetic speech experiment, duration elongation cued contrastive focus more than f0. These results suggest that focus in Taiwan Mandarin is more similar to focus in non-plastic languages where the tone on each syllable is not changed, but f0 range expansion and duration signal narrow focus.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Pan, Ho-hsien / Huang, Wan-Ting / Huang, Ying-Hui (2005): "Perception of new, given and contrastive information in Taiwanese", In PSP2005, 87-90.