14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999

Prosodic Characteristics of Information Structure in Spontaneous Discourse in Dutch

Monique E. van Donzel

Institute of Phonetic Sciences/IFOTT, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This paper presents an overview of the results of our study on the prosodic aspects of information structure in spontaneous discourse. We recorded speech material of eight speakers of standard Dutch. They read aloud a short story, which they subsequently retold in their own words. The verbatim transcriptions of these retold versions were analyzed for discourse structure (boundaries and information status), using a purely text-based framework. These analyses are taken as a reference point to which acoustic realization and perceived structure are related.
   The aims of the study are to find out what acoustic means are used by speakers to signal the structure of spontaneously spoken discourse, and how these cues are used by listeners to detect the structure of the message.
   Results show that discourse boundaries are marked with high boundary tones, also at locations where a low tone was expected. Heavier boundaries are marked with longer pauses. Listeners use acoustic pauses more than boundary tones as a cue for discerning phrasing. Furthermore, there appeared to be an ordering in the percentage ‘pitch accented’ and ‘perceived as prominent’ for speakers and listeners relative to information status: new > inferrable > modifier > discourse marker > verb.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Donzel, Monique E. van (1999): "Prosodic characteristics of information structure in spontaneous discourse in Dutch", In ICPhS-14, 1177-1180.