8th European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology

Geneva, Switzerland
September 1-4, 2003


Prosodic Correlates of Contrastive and Non-Contrastive Themes in German

Bettina Braun (1), D. Robert Ladd (2)

(1) Saarland University, Germany
(2) University of Edinburgh, U.K.

Semantic theories on focus and information structure assume that there are different accent types for thematic (backward-looking, known) and rhematic (forward-looking, new) information in languages as English and German. According to Steedman [1], thematic material may only be intonationally marked (= bear a pitch accent), if it "contrasts with a different established or accommodatable" theme [p. 656]. We shall show that intonational marking of themes in German seems rather gradual. Themes in contrastive contexts have a significantly longer stressed vowel, a higher and longer rise which results in a higher and more delayed peak than non-contrastive themes. Moreover, speakers can use different strategies to signal the contrast. Data were elicited by reading short paragraphs with a contrastive and non-contrastive pre-context. The use of many filler texts distracted subjects' attention from the contrast so that the data may be regarded as highly natural. Implementing these prosodic features in speech synthesis systems might help to avoid unnatural exaggerated prosodic realisations.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Braun, Bettina / Ladd, D. Robert (2003): "Prosodic correlates of contrastive and non-contrastive themes in German", In EUROSPEECH-2003, 789-792.