LINGUIST List 21.3193

Fri Aug 06 2010

Diss: Disc Analysis: Lin: 'The Prosody of Formulaic Language'

Editor for this issue: Mfon Udoinyang <>

        1.    Phoebe Lin, The Prosody of Formulaic Language

Message 1: The Prosody of Formulaic Language
Date: 05-Aug-2010
From: Phoebe Lin <>
Subject: The Prosody of Formulaic Language
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Institution: University of Nottingham Program: School of English Studies Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2010

Author: Phoebe M. S. Lin

Dissertation Title: The Prosody of Formulaic Language

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Dissertation Director:
Svenja Adolphs
Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis presents three original studies which explored the hypothesisthat formulaic language can be identified based on prosodic cues. Thesethree studies examined the hypothesis from different angles and, at thesame time, reflect a progression in the depth of our understanding of howthe phonological method can be realised in the formulaic languageidentification process.

Study One examined whether formulaic language can be identified by trackingintonation unit boundaries. The results showed that 55 percent and 40percent of the formulaic sequences in the spontaneous speech of proficientlearners and native speakers respectively are completely delineated byintonation unit boundaries. Based on these results, it is clear that thesuccess rate is not high enough for researchers to rely on trackingintonation unit boundaries alone to identify formulaic language. However, atrend was observed that the level of alignment with intonation unitsincreases with the scores which the native speaker judges provided toindicate how confident they were about the formulaicity of the wordsequences they had chosen. Taken together, these results suggest thatalthough the tracking of intonation unit boundaries alone is not sufficientto identify formulaic language in the spontaneous speech of native speakersand proficient learners, it may give some indication about the level offormulaicity of word sequences.

Study Two considered whether formulaic language can be identified byprosodic cues concerning tempo and stress placement. As a first steptowards this direction, the study aimed to establish empirically whetherformulaic language demonstrates unique temporal and stress patterns.Samples of formulaic sequences taken from an academic lecture extractcollected in the Nottingham Multi-Modal Corpus (NMMC) were analyzed interms of their temporal and stress patterns. Among other observations,formulaic language was not found to have a higher articulation rate thanthe speaker's mean articulation rate, and words within formulaic sequencesare distinctly less likely to receive stress.

Study Three adopted an alternative interpretation of the phonologicalmethod in the identification of formulaic language. It asked whetherallowing judges to listen to the prosody of formulaic sequences will reducethe subjectivity in their formulaicity judgement and increase the level ofagreement between judges. Results of this study provided an affirmativeanswer to this question and, at the same time, revealed the mechanism bywhich the listening to the audio recording improves the use of collectivenative speaker judgement as a formulaic language identification method.These results showed that while the search for prosodic cues unique toformulaic language should continue, an alternative way to realise thephonological method is really to replace the textual speech transcriptswith the multimodal transcripts in the process of formulaic languageidentification by collective native speaker judgement.

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