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This paper reports on two speech-production experiments focused on Putonghua and Taiwan Mandarin sentence-final particles and wh-phrases that have interrogative or indefinite readings in three contexts: yes/no questions, wh-questions, and statements. Sentence-final particles were found to influence focus-prosody through right-edge shortening and lowering of F0 and intensity of wh-phrases, thus distinguishing wh-interrogatives from indefinites and questions from statements. Speakers adopt multidimensional acoustic strategies to shape intonation: while maintaining the lexical tones, prosody interacts with the organization imposed by syntax, semantics, and focus. The two varieties of Mandarin differ in the extent to which their prosodic differences represent such syntactic-semantic information.
We report results of a speech production experiment about the prosody of wh-indeterminates and three types of sentences in Hong Kong Cantonese, and discuss our results in relation to the characteristics of focus prosody and the prosodic-syntactic effects on sentence final particles (SFPs). Wh-indeterminates refer to wh-phrases that are ambiguous between interrogative and indefinite readings. Chinese languages do not morphologically differentiate the meanings of wh-indeterminates, but they can be differentiated in some types of sentences marked by SFPs. In this study, we used statements as the baseline to systematically study the sentential prosody of wh-and yes/no questions as well as the constituent prosody expressed by wh-indeterminates therein. The results show that wh-and yes/no questions were distinguished from statements by the prosody of SFPs, and that the two readings of wh-indeterminates were distinguished in the regions of wh-phrases. We also found that wh-phrases and SFPs together formed a specific duration pattern that distinguishes questions from statements. Our results suggest that the speech prosodic organization considers and interacts with syntax-semantics.
We report results of a speech production experiment about the intonation of three sentence types in Taiwan Mandarin, and discuss our results with implications for focus acoustics, and semantic-syntactic theories of sentence final particles and wh-indeterminates. Wh-indeterminates refer to wh-phrases that are ambiguous between interrogative and indefinite readings. In Mandarin, different interpretations of wh-indeterminates are not morphologically marked, but can be disambiguated in specific sentence contexts marked by sentence final particles. In this study, we systematically examined the intonation of wh-questions and yes/no questions by using declarative sentences as the baseline. The results show that both wh- and yes/no questions exhibit F0 prominence, and lengthening effects on regions containing sentence-final particles and wh-phrases, but the effects were stronger in wh-questions. Examining the duration and F0 range, we found that wh-phrases and sentence final particles together formed specific acoustic patterns to distinguish questions from declarative sentences. The findings suggest that the prosodic organization interacts with other internal structural organization.
The acoustic realization of focus can be influenced by the position of a focalized word in a larger constituent and by constraints on prosodic organization of an utterance. Here, we report four production studies that explore the potential effects of local prosodic organization on the realization of focus in Hong Kong Cantonese (HKC) and Taiwan Mandarin (TwM). The materials consisted of sentences in which a syntactic subject noun phrase (consisted of monosyllabic numeral, classifier, and noun) expressing either corrective or wh focus. The span of the focus constituent within such an NP was controlled using short conversations indicating either (i) the numeral only focus, (ii) the noun only focus, or (iii) the whole noun phrase focus. Our results showed that the acoustic realization of focus in HKC and TwM extends beyond general acoustic highlighting of focus constituents, i.e., the acoustic realization of focus in HKC and TwM are influenced by constraints of prosodic organization.
In addition to deciding what to say, interlocutors have to decide how to say it. One of the important tasks of linguists is then to model how differences in acoustic patterns influence the interpretation of a sentence. In light of previous studies on how prosodic structure convey discourse-level of information in a sentence, this study makes use of a speech production experiment to investigate how expressions related to different information packaging, such as information focus, corrective focus, and old information, are prosodically realized within a complex nominal. Special attention was paid to the sequence of “numeral-classifier-noun” in Mandarin, which consists of closely related sub-syntactic units internally, and provides a phonetically controlled environment comparable to previous phonetic studies on focus prominence at the sentential level. The result shows that a multi-dimensional strategy is used in focus-marking, and that focus prosody is sensitive to the size of focus domain and is observable in various lexical tonal environments in Mandarin.
We report production data on the prosodic realization of two types of foci (constituent wh-answers, and constituent correction) of two Chinese languages that are very different from Mandarin: Hong Kong Cantonese and Teochew (a variety of Southern Min dialect spoken in Jieyang, Guangdong China). The results indicated that unlike what was reported about focus prosody at the sentential level in Cantonese, on-focus lengthening was observed with wh focus data but nothing about on-focus intensity. F0 cues were not obvious but some tendency of post-focal compression was found in F0 velocity. The Teochew data instead showed no significant acoustic distinction across different types of information structure.