Deciding upon the Relevancy of Intonational Features for the Marking of Focus: a Statistical Approach

Journal of Semantics 8 (3):171-189 (1991)
Abstract
We present results on how focus is marked intonationally in German. Six untrained speakers produced a corpus of 360 sentences. The corpus was constructed in such a way that sentence modality and place of focus could only be differentiated by intonational means. Acoustic features representing the parameters pitch, duration, and intensity were extracted manually or automatically. The relevancy of these features and the effect of several transformations were tested with statistical methods (discriminant analysis). Perceptual experiments where the listeners had to decide upon the place of the focal accent and to judge the naturalness and categories of the utterances were performed as well. By calculating average values for the (appropriately transformed) relevant features we found ‘normal’, prototypical cases; by looking at utterances where all listeners agreed on the naturalness and (intended) categories we arrived at cionciding results. At the same istime we found ‘unusual’ but regular productions. Finally, the speaker-specific use of the different parameters is discussed and the question is addressed as to whether the parameters can be classified as relevant or irrelevant for the intonational marking of focus
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