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Phonetic and visual cues to questionhood in French conversation

Torreira, F., & Valtersson, E. (2015). Phonetic and visual cues to questionhood in French conversation. Phonetica, 72, 20-42. doi:10.1159/000381723.
We investigate the extent to which French polar questions and continuation statements, two types of utterances with similar morphosyntactic and intonational forms but different pragmatic functions, can be distinguished in conversational data based on phonetic and visual bodily information. We show that the two utterance types can be distinguished well over chance level by automatic classification models including several phonetic and visual cues. We also show that a considerable amount of relevant phonetic and visual information is present before the last portion of the utterances, potentially assisting early speech act recognition by addressees. These findings indicate that bottom-up phonetic and visual cues may play an important role during the production and recognition of speech acts alongside top-down contextual information.
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