Ninth International Conference on Spoken Language Processing

Pittsburgh, PA, USA
September 17-21, 2006

Pitch Range and Pause Duration as Markers of Discourse Hierarchy: Perception Experiments

Jörg Mayer, Ekaterina Jasinskaja, Ulrike Kölsch

University of Potsdam, Germany

Discourse structure is reflected by a number of global prosodic parameters, like for example pause duration and pitch range. Discourse structure is also known to affect the accessibility/salience of antecedents of anaphoric expressions. Assuming these generalizations are correct, one can ask whether listeners use the information encoded in pauses and pitch range to resolve anaphoric references in ambiguous contexts. To examine this, we conducted a series of perception experiments with ambiguous discourses, where the pitch range of the sentences and the pause duration between sentences was manipulated. The results of our experiments corroborate our main research hypothesis that global prosodic parameters influence the resolution of anaphoric pronouns. The direction of the observed effect is clearly in accordance with the predictions of the existing theories of discourse anaphora and the current state of research on discourse prosody.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Mayer, Jörg / Jasinskaja, Ekaterina / Kölsch, Ulrike (2006): "Pitch range and pause duration as markers of discourse hierarchy: perception experiments", In INTERSPEECH-2006, paper 1290-Mon2FoP.7.