15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

On Initial Boundary Tones in English Conversation

Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen

University of Potsdam, Germany

This paper examines the beginnings of intonation phrases at possible topic and sequence junctures in a naturally occurring English telephone conversation. It shows that the two speakers systematically make use of high pre-heads in conjunction with high onsets at these sequential locations to mark turn-constructional units as topic- and/or sequence-initiating. What counts as high pre-head appears to require a positionally sensitive answer: high with respect to the speaker's voice range in turn-initial position but high with respect to prior syllables when the turn-constructional unit is rushed into within a turn. The study further suggests that choice of pre-head height is not dependent on onset height and thus that high initial boundary tones are a resource deployed independently, e.g. in the management of topic and sequence organization in everyday conversation.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth (2003): "On initial boundary tones in English conversation", In ICPhS-15, 119-122.