Melodic cues to 'finality' in discourse units

M.G.J. Swerts, R.P.G. Collier

    Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractAcademic


    Among the possible functions of speech melody is its capacity to signal different sorts of relationships between utterances that build a discourse unit. Pitch may indicate, for example, whether a current utterance is likely to be the last one in a sequence of statements. Spontaneous speech was elicited by having subjects describe a path through a spatial network, containing geometrical figures, some of which were identical in form, but occurred in different positions (among which is the final one in the trajectory). Perceptual tests brought to light that listeners can identify the utterances in accordance with their structural positions in the spontaneous descriptions and that the pitch contours may indeed contain cues to those perceivable distinctions. The communicative relevance of pitch for signalling ‘‘finality’’ was then further investigated in perceptual experiments. It was revealed that, in pairwise comparisons, ‘‘finality’’ judgments can be significantly influenced by the following variables: the direction of the utterance-final-pitch change, the relative size of the pitch movements, the position of the contour in the speaker’s pitch register, and the type of ‘‘hat pattern’’ used.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2344-
    Number of pages1
    JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1991


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