Emily Menon Bender
Alicia Beckford Wassink
Richard A. Wright
Intonation varies considerably in spoken language, making it difficult to characterize consistently and thoroughly. It is equally difficult to generate contextually appropriate intonation for synthetic speech. This dissertation examines intonational variation in different speech situations and demonstrates that the distributions of intonation features and patterns vary systematically with the situational context, or register domain.
More than 9,000 utterances were annotated with ToBI labels indicating pitch accents, intermediate phrases, and boundary tones. The distributional characteristics of eight intonation variables were analyzed for systematic variation corresponding to register domain. 1. Boundary tone 2. Initial pitch accent tone 3. Simple vs. complex initial pitch accent 4. Pitch frame 5. Phrase offset contour 6. Pitch accent quantity 7. Intermediate phrase quantity 8. Tone contour type and token
The register domains were evaluated as a group and in pairs on each intonational measure. A significant effect for register was found for every measure at the group level and in more than half of the register domain pairs. These results confirm for intonation what has already been demonstrated through analyses of lexical and grammatical characteristics of other aspects of language: a register is distinguished by a constellation of features and their relative distributions.
One important result is the lack of persistent similarities or differences between register domains. Some register domains systematically differed along several or all dimensions while others behaved similarly along some dimensions and diverged on others. There appears to be no single continuum along which registers can be arranged to explain their complex interrelationships. This last result has implications for orienting the speaking situations themselves and suggests that they are as multidimensional as the linguistic features that characterize them. Another noteworthy finding was evidence of tone selection dependencies at different levels of the corpus. Some dependencies were observed throughout the corpus while others appeared to operate within particular register domains.
The results of this study overall suggest that a general model of intonation probably glosses over a range of significant situation-based intonational behavior. Fortifying existing (text-based) multidimensional analyses with prosodic features will sharpen our understanding of the relationship between linguistic variability and situational factors.