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LINGUIST List 23.2363

Thu May 17 2012

Diss: Phonetics/Pragmatics/Semantics: Lai: 'Rises All the Way Up: The interpretation of prosody, discourse attitudes and dialogue structure'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

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Date: 16-May-2012
From: Catherine Lai <claiinf.ed.ac.uk>
Subject: Rises All the Way Up: The interpretation of prosody, discourse attitudes and dialogue structure
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Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Catherine Lai

Dissertation Title: Rises All the Way Up: The interpretation of prosody, discourse attitudes and dialogue structure

Dissertation URL: http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~laic/dissertation/index.html

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics

Dissertation Director:
Jiahong Yuan
Florian Schwarz
Mark Liberman

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation is about what prosody contributes to dialogue
interpretation. The view of prosody developed in this account is based on
detailed quantitative investigations of the prosodic forms and
interpretations of cue word and declarative responses, specifically with
respect to the distribution and interpretation of terminal pitch rises.
Drawing on results from corpus, production and perception studies, I argue
that the underlying contribution of terminal rises is to signal that the
dialogue has not come to a viable stopping point with respect to the task
at hand. This approach enables us to explain previously incongruent
findings about the connection between rises and attitudes like uncertainty.
From this perspective, the perception of such attitudes does not arise
directly from prosodic form, but instead depends upon a range of contextual
factors. The experimental results indicate that the most important of these
is how an utterance relates to the current question under discussion,
rather than sentence or dialogue act type. However, variation in prosodic
form is also affected by higher level factors like dialect, task, and
speaker role: rises become more frequent on non-questioning moves as the
need to co-ordinate becomes greater.

The experimental results allows us to make significant headway in
clarifying the relationship between the prosodic, semantic and information
structural properties of responses. This, in turn, sheds light on several
outstanding questions about the contribution of the rise in fall-rise
accents and its relationship to information structural categories like
contrastive topic. Overall, we see that rises don't act on the proposition
that carries them, nor do they mark out specific IS categories. Instead
they reveal the state of the discourse from the speaker's perspective. From
a methodological point of view, I show that to gain a robust understanding
the contribution of prosody on a particular meaning dimension, we need to
take into account the baseline induced by the discourse configuration
itself. These studies show the utility of using functional data analysis
techniques to give more direct view of prosodic variation in larger
datasets without manual prosodic annotation.

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