Speech Prosody 2006

Dresden, Germany
May 2-5, 2006

Acoustic Prominence and Reference Accessibility in Language Production

Duane Watson (1), Jennifer E. Arnold (2), Michael K. Tanenhaus (3)

(1) Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
(2) Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
(3) Department of Brain and Cognitive Science. University of Rochester, USA

Two experiments explored discourse and communicative factors that contribute to the perceived prominence of a word in an utterance, and how that prominence is realized acoustically. In Experiment 1 two hypotheses were tested: (1) acoustic prominence is a product of the given-new status of a word and (2) acoustic prominence depends on the degree to which a referent is accessible, where greater acoustic prominence is used for less accessible entities. In a referential communication task, speakers used acoustic prominence to indicate referent accessibility change, independent of givennew status. In Experiment 2 a variant of Tic Tac Toe was used to investigate whether effects of accessibility are driven by a need to signal the importance of a word or to indicate the word’s predictability. The results indicate that both importance and predictability contribute to the prominence of a word, but in different ways.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Watson, Duane / Arnold, Jennifer E. / Tanenhaus, Michael K. (2006): "Acoustic prominence and reference accessibility in language production", In SP-2006, paper 162.