LINGUIST List 7.665

Tue May 7 1996

Sum: Utterances

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. "J. Treffers-Daller", summary utterances

Message 1: summary utterances

Date: Tue, 07 May 1996 11:30:55
From: "J. Treffers-Daller" <>
Subject: summary utterances
A couple of days ago I asked other researchers about the definition
of the utterance they used in studies of bilingual corpora. So far I
had used Hunt's definition of the T-unit (minimal terminal unit):
"one main clause plus any subordinate clause or nonclausal structure
that is attached to or embedded in it."

I received reactions from the four following collegues:
Barbara Zurer Pearson
Julie Reid
Monika Chavez
Sherri Condon

Please do not hesitate to react to the following preliminary summary.

Barbara Pearson used the guidelines given by Berman and Slobin (1994)
when she used frog stories. Basically this means putting one "verbed
clause" per line (whether it's finite or not). Furthermore she notes
short and long pauses as they occur. When putting the same stories
into CHAT format, she used T-units. Interestingly counting T-units in
English and Spanish is done in different ways. I do not yet havet the
details of these differences.
 Furthermore Barbara used "breath group" when studying infant
vocalizations. For a project with school kids collegues of Barbara
did not use utterances but only "turns".

Monika Chavez points to Elaine Philips' work ("the effects of
language anxiety on students' oral test performance" in The Modern
Language Journal 76 (1), 1992. Elaine used Communication Units
(CU's). The following reference may also be useful:
Kobayashi and Carol Rinnert "Effects of First Language on Second
Language Writing: Translation versus Direct Composition" in Language
Learning 42(2), 1992, p. 183ff. These authors use S-nodes in
addition to T-units. They further refer to a defintion of T-unit
(besides the Hunt source) and S-nodes per T-unit on page 236 in the
same volume..

Sherri Condon writes that in discourse analysis different definitions
are used and in her own work she used a definition similar to Hunt's,
except that she treated interjections and discourse markers like ok,
so, well etc. as separate utterances, because she was particularly
interested in them.

I would be very grateful for more suggestions, as I am preparing a
short overview of different definitions used in different types of
research for a manual on transcription of codeswitching datasets
within the framework of the LIPPS group (language interaction in
plurilingual and plurilectal speakers). This group is setting up a
database for the exchange of codeswitching corpora.

Jeanine Treffers-Daller
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