Speech Prosody 2004

Nara, Japan
March 23-26, 2004

Can we see Focus? A Visual Perception Study of Contrastive Focus in French

Marion Dohen, Hélène Loevenbruck, Marie-Agnès Cathiard, Jean-Luc Schwartz

Institut de la Communication Parlée UMR CNRS 5009, INPG, Stendhal Univ., Grenoble, France

The purpose of this study was to determine whether the visual modality is useful for the perception of prosody. An audio-visual corpus consisting of four focus conditions (subject, verb, object focus and broad focus) was recorded from a male native speaker of French. A preliminary production study showed that there are visible correlates of contrastive focus in French a) increase in lip area and jaw opening on the focused syllables b) lengthening of the prefocal syllable and the focal syllables (with a considerably higher lengthening for the first segment of the focused phrase). The present perceptual study showed that a) contrastive focus was well perceived visually; b) no practice was necessary and c) subject focus was slightly easier to identify than the other focus conditions. We also found that the presence and salience of the visual cues enhances perception.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Dohen, Marion / Loevenbruck, Hélène / Cathiard, Marie-Agnès / Schwartz, Jean-Luc (2004): "Can we see focus? a visual perception study of contrastive focus in French", In SP-2004, 73-76.