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Adventures in English Syntax

By Robert Freidin

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Modality Across Syntactic Categories

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Dissertation Information


Title: Text Type Prosody. A corpus-assisted study on prosodic patterns specific to text types in Italian, with special reference to French Add Dissertation
Author: Matthias Heinz Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://homepages.uni-tuebingen.de/matthias.heinz/
Institution: Technische Universität Chemnitz, Department of Romance Languages
Completed in: 2003
Linguistic Subfield(s): Text/Corpus Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): French
Italian
Language Family(ies): Romance
Director(s): Harro Stammerjohann
Rainer Schlösser
Stephan Hascheid

Abstract: Which factors can be regarded as essential for the prosodic differentiation
of oral text varieties? The study investigates this question on the basis
of a corpus of recordings of the text genres fairy-tale in Italian (fiaba)
and radio news reports in Italian and French (giornale radio, radiojournal).

Starting from the assumption that every spoken utterance is characterized
by prosodic features, at minimum rhythmic and melodic patterns, it can be
shown that the specific combination of those features favors recognition of
certain utterance or text types – even when the recognition of lexical
content is impaired on the part of the hearer. Those cases are clearly
described by Fónagy (1978): “[I]t is possible to identify the type of genre
of communication that is being transmitted, even in situations where
neither semantic information nor contextual cues are available. If the
radio has been turned on in a neighbouring room, we can not only identify
correctly the source of the communication, but we can recognize whether the
news is being broadcast [or] a fairy tale is being told [...]”.

Although the effect of this prosodic marking of text types seems
intuitively clear and perceptually relevant as a Gestalt, singling out
individual prosodic parameters turns out to be rather complex. The elements
identified as essential for prosodic text type patterns are the temporal
parameters pausing, fluency, and tempo as well as intonational factors
(with tempo and overall intonational structuring resulting in especially
characteristic patterns). After an overview of previous research, those
factors are given a detailed empirical analysis based on the corpus. Their
relevance for the recognition of text types is then tested by means of a
perception experiment. The results are discussed in the more general
theoretic context of language and text perception.

Findings include (a) evidence for a clear prosodic differentiation of text
types both within Italian and, as contrastive analysis shows,
crosslinguistically (Italian and French); (b) indications for the cognitive
relevance of a prosodic text type competence (embedded in a more general
textual competence) favoring fast hearer recognition of text types even in
cases where the input is deficient.