Evidence for attractors in English intonation

Braun, B., Kochanski, G., Grabe, E., & Rosner, B. S. (2006). Evidence for attractors in English intonation. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 119(6), 4006-4015. doi:10.1121/1.2195267.
Although the pitch of the human voice is continuously variable, some linguists contend that intonation in speech is restricted to a small, limited set of patterns. This claim is tested by asking subjects to mimic a block of 100 randomly generated intonation contours and then to imitate themselves in several successive sessions. The produced f0 contours gradually converge towards a limited set of distinct, previously recognized basic English intonation patterns. These patterns are "attractors" in the space of possible intonation English contours. The convergence does not occur immediately. Seven of the ten participants show continued convergence toward their attractors after the first iteration. Subjects retain and use information beyond phonological contrasts, suggesting that intonational phonology is not a complete description of their mental representation of intonation.
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