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Information structure lecture series 2007 -

Abstract Niebuhr

In German, speakers can use different melodic patterns to convey their attitudes towards the dialogue partner, the information, or the dialogue itself. The research presented deals with three melodic categories. Although their concrete interpretations depend on the other meaning components in the utterance, the generic meaning characteristics of the three categories can be described by “given”, “new”, and “unexpected”. A series of perception experiments was performed to investigate how these categories are signalled to the hearer. The experiments started from the phonology of the Kiel Intonation Model, KIM. In this acoustically based phonology, the three melodic categories are represented by rising-falling F0 peaks which are differently aligned with the boundaries of the accented-vowel onset. That is, “given” is expressed by F0 peaks showing their maximum before the accented-vowel onset, whereas F0 peaks with maxima in the vowel are perceived as “new”. Finally, F0 peaks having their maxima after the accented-vowel offset belong to the category “unexpected”. The findings of the perception experiments expand this concept. They indicate that the melodic categories are signalled by a complex interplay of F0 and intensity in which peak shape and height play a role, and in which the CV or VC boundaries are only relevant in terms of the different intensity levels and transitions caused by them. Moreover, further investigations show that also traditional segmental features like segment durations or aspiration properties are involved in the signalling of “given”, “new”, and “unexpected” in German.

Last checked 2010-10-05 by Christine Dimroth

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