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The cohesive function of prosody in Ékegusií (Kisii) narratives



This talk shows how various prosodic features of Ékegusií (Kisii, Great Lakes Bantu; Kenya) narratives function to create discourse cohesion, by signaling the transitions from one unit of discourse to the next, the relations that hold between those units, and their relative prominence. I demonstrate that these prosodic features – pause, vowel elision, prosodic accent, pitch reset, isotony (intonational parallelism), and intonational contour – are primarily motivated by their function in the discourse, rather than by syntactic constituency. I conclude that an understanding of prosody as a means of signaling discourse cohesion provides a language-independent definition for examining prosody crosslinguistically.
The cohesive function of
prosody in kegusi (Kisii)
Daniel W. Hieber
Discourse Workshop
University of California, Santa Barbara
Nov. 14, 2016
What is prosody?
suprasegmental (Fox 2000)
hierarchical phonological structure (Cruttendon 1986; Ladd 2008;
Nespor & Vogel 2007)
syntactic mechanism (Downing 2013; Selkirk 1986)
means of information packaging (Chafe 1994)
interactional (Couper-Kuhlen & Selting; Barth-Weingarten & Reber 2010;
Szczepek Reed 2011)
affective (Gussenhoven 2004: 71-96)
delineates units of discourse (Swerts 1994)
Prosodic features
pause ?
syllable structure ??
voice quality / phonation ???
tone ????
(morpho)phonological processes ?????
What goes on the list?
“there is no way of knowing ahead of time how the phonetic
features loosely referred to as “prosodic– pitch, duration, and so
on – are going to be put to phonological use in any given language.
(Himmelmann & Ladd 2008: 253)
The phonetic cues that signal phonemic distinctions in one
language may have purely prosodic functions in another, and vice
How does one decide when a given linguistic feature is functioning
prosodically or not?
Areas of agreement about prosody
Functions ‘at the level of discourseor ‘postlexically(Cole 2015:
2; Himmelmann & Ladd 2008)
Closely associated with intonation (Cruttendon 1986: 1; Jun 2005)
Demarcation of larger stretches of discourse (Cole 2015; Fónagy &
Bérard 2006; Himmelman & Ladd 2008; Jun 2005; Wennerstrom 2001:7)
‘Purely phonologicalvs. discourse-level prosody (Nespor & Vogel
2007: 3)
Prosody & Discourse
What does it mean for prosody to be a discourse-level
distinguishes a text from a collection of random
– “Where the interpretation of any item in the discourse
requires making reference to some other item in the
discourse” (Halliday & Hasan 1976: 11)
Prosody & Discourse
Grammatical structure is cohesion-forming
Prosody connects large units of discourse (Brown 1977; Genetti
2011; Ladd 1986, 1988; Swerts & Geluykens 1994; Yule 1980)
Prosody signals relatedness between successive units of
discourse (e.g. pitch reset) (Brazil 1985; Couper-Kuhlen 2004; Ladd
1986, 1988; Pierrehumbert & Hirschberg 1990)
Prosody & Discourse
“When prosodic cues are available, listeners do appear to
make use of them in detecting discourse boundaries and in
evaluating the degree of discourse cohesion or juncture
between successive utterances in a discourse.Cole (2015: 9)
kegusi (Kisii)
Bantu, Niger-Congo
kegusi (Kisii; Bantu, Niger-Congo)
Endangered language of southwest Kenya
Few speakers under 30
2.2 million ethnic Gusii people, ~600,000 speakers
Surrounded by Nilotic languages
Tonal: H vs. L tone (L orthographically unmarked)
Data: 24 folktales; lexical database with audio (14,000
Prosodic Features
vowel elision
prosodic accent
pitch reset
isotony (intonational parallelism)
intonational contour
Ratio of pause to IU length in a text
Pause / IU Length
Introduction of narrative
and participants Complicating
action Movement
toward climax Climax
Repair without pause
Vowel elision
éndo ɛ́gatɛ́ɛ́b rɛɛrɔ go ngóóch kógɛnda ntɛ́gɛ́
lion it.said today so to.go I.trap
[éend#ɛ́ɣatɛ́ɛ́β ɾɛɛɾɔ́#ɣó#óŋgóóʃá kɔɣɛɛndá#ntɛ́ɣɛ́]
‘The lion said, “Today I’ll go and lay a trap.”’
Vowel elision
ndóré ómonto ógooch ória chnchg chnɛ́
I.see person who.goes ground.nuts my
[ndóɾ#ómoont#óɣooʃ#óɾí#ʃinʃɣú ʃnɛ́]
‘[…] so that I see who comes to eat my ground nuts.
Vowel elision
Lack of vowel elision indicating a
prosodic break
Lack of vowel elision at transition into
reported speech
Prosodic accent
Pitch Reset
Lack of pitch reset indicating narrative
Lexical repetition without isotony
Isotony without lexical repetition
Isotony across multiple IUs
Intonational Contour Types
High Register
The day came that the invited visitors came.
The food was prepared there.
The meats were there.
The breads were there.
The mandazi [donuts] were there.
People ate and drank sodas.
These people drank tea with mandazi.
They rejoiced and sang well.
It reached the evening.
Terminal Rise – adverbial ‘whenclause
Terminal rise – new topic
Prosody as Cohesion
“there is an English-specific system of intonation built upon
a rhythmic foundation that functions as a “grammar of
cohesion.” This means that prosody, particularly intonation,
contributes information about connections among
constituents in discourse, conveying meaning beyond what is
provided through lexical and syntactic systems” (Wennerstrom
Prosody as Cohesion
Avoids problems with the list approach and denitions
focused on suprasegmentals
Oers a language-general functional denition of prosody
which helps identify when a phonetic feature is being used
prosodically, and when it is not
Provides a framework for future typological studies of
Barth-Weingarten, Dagmar & Elisabeth Reber (eds.). 2010.
Prosody in interaction
. (Studies in Discourse & Grammar 23). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Chafe, Wallace L. 1994.
Discourse, consciousness, and time: The ow and displacement of conscious experience in speaking and writing
. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Cole, Jennifer. 2015. Prosody in context: A review.
Language, Cognition & Neuroscience
3798(January). 3741. doi:10.1080/23273798.2014.963130.
Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth & Margaret Selting. 1996. Towards an interactional perspective on prosody and a prosodic perspective on interaction. In Elizabeth
Couper-Kuhlen & Margaret Selting (eds.),
Prosody in conversation: Interactional studies
, 1156. (Studies in Interactional Sociolinguistics 12).
Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Cruttendon, Alan. 1986.
. (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Downing, Laura J. 2013. Issues in the phonology-syntax interface in African languages. In lanikla Orie & Karen W. Sanders (eds.),
, 2638.
Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
Fónagy, Ivan & Eva Bérard. 2006. Functions of intonation. In Yuji Kawaguchi, Ivan Fónagy & Tsunekazu Moriguchi (eds.),
Prosody & Syntax
, 1946. (Usage-
Based Linguistic Informatics 3). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Fox, Anthony. 2000.
Prosodic features and prosodic structure: The phonology of suprasegmentals
. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gussenhoven, Carlos. 2004.
The phonology of tone and intonation
. (Research Surveys in Linguistics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Halliday, M. A. K. & Ruqaiya Hasan. 1976.
Cohesion in English
. (English Language Series 9). London: Longman.
Himmelman, Nikolaus P. & D. Robert Ladd. 2008. Prosodic description: An introduction for eldworkers.
Language Documentation & Conservation
2(2). 244
Jun, Sun-Ah (ed.). 2005.
Prosodic typology: The phonology of intonation and phrasing
. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ladd, D. Robert. 2008.
Intonational phonology
. 2nd ed. (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 119). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1016/S0024-
Nespor, Marina & Irene Vogel. 2007.
Prosodic phonology: With a new foreword
. (Studies in Generative Grammar 28). Mouton de Gruyter.
Selkirk, Elisabeth O. 1986.
Phonology and syntax: The relationship between sound and structure
. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Szczepek Reed, Beatrice. 2011.
Analysing conversation: An introduction to prosody
. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Swerts, Marc. 1994.
Prosodic features of discourse units
. PhD dissertation. Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. doi:10.6100/IR411593.
Wennerstrom, Ann. 2001.
The music of everyday speech: Prosody and discourse analysis
. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pauses in a single text
Pause (seconds)
Introduction of narrative
and participants Complicating
action Movement
toward climax Climax
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Full-text available
Prosody conveys information about the linguistic context of an utterance at every level of linguistic organisation, from the word up to the discourse context. Acoustic correlates of prosody cue this rich contextual information, but interpreting prosodic cues in terms of the lexical, syntactic and discourse information they encode also requires recognising prosodic variation due to speaker, language variety, speech style and other properties of the situational context. This review reveals the complex interaction among contextual factors that influence the phonological form and phonetic expression of prosody. Empirical challenges in prosodic transcription are discussed along with production evidence that reveals striking variability in the phonological encoding of prosody and in its phonetic expression. The review points to the need for a model of prosody that is robust to contextually driven variation affecting the production and perception of prosodic form.
Prosodic Features and Prosodic Structure presents an overall view of the nature of prosodic features of language - accent, stress, rhythm, tone, pitch, and intonation - and shows how these connect to sound systems and meaning. It is a work of great scholarship and learning, expressed in waythat will be accessible to all linguists from advanced undergraduates to postdoctoral researchers. The last substantial overview was published over 20 years ago. Since then the subject has been transformed by linked advances in phonological and phonetic theory and accoustic technology. This bookwill interest phonologists, phoneticians, and researchers in related applied fields such as speech pathology and speech synthesis.
This book illustrates an approach to prosodic typology through descriptions of the intonation and the prosodic structure of thirteen typologically different languages based on the same theoretical framework, the 'autosegmental-metrical' model of intonational phonology, and the transcription system of prosody known as ToBI (Tones and Break Indices). It is the first book introducing the history and principles of ToBI. It presents eleven ToBI systems ranging from European languages, Asian languages, an Australian aboriginal language, and an American Indian language, illustrating the flexibility and integrity of the ToBI system. The last chapter of the book proposes a model of prosodic typology based on two prosodic categories, prominence and rhythmic/prosodic unit. © Editorial matter and organization Sun-Ah Jun 2005. All rights reserved.
Using examples from a wide variety of languages, this book reveals why speakers vary their pitch, what these variations mean, and how they are integrated into our grammars. All languages use modulations in pitch to form utterances. Pitch modulation encodes lexical “tone” to signal boundaries between morphemes or words, and encodes “intonation” to give words and sentences an additional meaning that isn’t part of their original sense. © Carlos Gussenhoven 2004 and Cambridge University Press, 2010.
This article provides an introductory tutorial on prosodic features such as tone and accent for researchers working on little-known languages. It specifically addresses the needs of non-specialists and thus does not presuppose knowledge of the phonetics and phonology of prosodic features. Instead, it intends to introduce the uninitiated reader to a field often shied away from because of its (in part real, but in part also just imagined) complexities. It consists of a concise overview of the basic phonetic phenomena (section 2) and the major categories and problems of their functional and phonological analysis (sections 3 and 4). Section 5 gives practical advice for documenting and analyzing prosodic features in the field. National Foreign Language Resource Center
Niger-Congo) ethnic Gusii people, ~600,000 speakers • Surrounded by Nilotic languages • Tonal: H vs. L tone (L orthographically unmarked) • Data: 24 folktales
  • Bantu
Bantu, Niger-Congo) ethnic Gusii people, ~600,000 speakers • Surrounded by Nilotic languages • Tonal: H vs. L tone (L orthographically unmarked) • Data: 24 folktales; lexical database with audio (14,000 words) References
Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Chafe, Wallace L. 1994. Discourse, consciousness, and time: The flow and displacement of conscious experience in speaking and writing
  • Barth-Weingarten
Barth-Weingarten, Dagmar & Elisabeth Reber (eds.). 2010. Prosody in interaction. (Studies in Discourse & Grammar 23). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Chafe, Wallace L. 1994. Discourse, consciousness, and time: The flow and displacement of conscious experience in speaking and writing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.