Prosody, grammar and discourse structure

The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University

Prosody and Information Structure

Studies related to the second goal of the project were addressed particularly during 1999.  With the goal of modelling the prosodic structure of system utterances, a psycholinguistic study related to the accentuation patterns of given information in spontaneous travel agent utterances was carried out. An investigation of travel-domain dialogues revealed travel-agent (=System) utterances with intonational contours characterized by prominent (focal) accents on previously given domain-related information. These accents were seen to occur on content-words in utterance-initial position. The accentuation can be assumed to be related to the interactive nature of dialogue where the travel agent links back to a domain-related concept introduced by the client (=User) and comments on it in an engaged manner. A perception test using constructed man-machine Initiative-Response dialogues where the machine (synthesized) Responses vary as to the type of accent pattern (focal vs non-focal) on the initial domain-related words was developed to test listenersí preference for accent type. Results indicated that focal accents on domain-related utterance-initial given concepts are indeed preferred, a result which has implications for the design of the utterance-generating component of man-machine dialogue systems (Horne, Hansson, Bruce, Frid (1999);  Horne, Hansson, Bruce, Frid & Jönsson (1999), Horne, Hansson, Bruce & Frid (2001).
The discourse circumstances under which speakers choose to focally accent topics are further discussed in Hansson (2000).