Stefan BaumannUniversity of Cologne, Germany
Prosodic prominence and linguistic functions
When speakers communicate with each other, relevant parts of an utterance may either be actively highlighted through prosodic and syntactic means, or they are informative in themselves, such as novel discourse topics and uncommon words. As a result of both prosodic and syntactic highlighting and semantic-pragmatic informativeness, listeners perceive certain utterance parts as more or less prominent.
Highlighting is, next to phrasing, the basic task of prosody determining the meaning of an utterance at a mediating level of interpretation. Prosody operates on many different levels of linguistic description (e.g. expressing information structure) and may use both discrete (such as pitch accent types) and gradient means (including pitch movement, loudness, duration and voice quality) to a varying extent. Nevertheless, the production and perception of prominence is an interplay of multiple cues, including the speaker’s choice of words and their lexical as well as discourse-pragmatic properties or the syntactic construction the word occurs in. These different cues may interact in complex ways, and they may have different effects on different listeners.
The talk will discuss results from various production studies, appropriateness and prominence ratings as well as neurolinguistic experiments in order to view the relation between prosodic prominence marking and (other) linguistic functions from different perspectives.