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Klaus J. Kohler (2006).
What is Emphasis and How is it Coded?
Speech Prosody 2006 Dresden.

Audio Examples.


Contents :

1. Accent coding by pitch features 2. Accent coding by non-pitch features 3. Emphasis for contrast and for semantic intensification 3.1 Emphasis for contrast in pitch accents: Peak contours 3.2 Emphasis for contrast in pitch accents: Valley contours 3.3. Emphasis for intensification in pitch accents: positive semantic heightening 3.4 Emphasis for intensification in non-pitch accents: negative semantic heightening 4. Speaker and listener-oriented FOCUS

1. Accent coding by pitch features in the mini-dialogue

Speaker A:
"Peter invited a few of his friends to a party in his flat. Mary came with Manny ."
Speaker B:
"No, Anna came with Manny."

Example 1a: Double focus for highlighting of two information units
Two f0 peak contours with donwstep of the second f0 maximum

Female speaker:
"(Peter invited a few of his friends to a party in his flat.)
Mary came with Manny ".

Male speaker:
"(Peter invited a few of his friends to a party in his flat.)
Mary came with Manny ".

Example 1b: Single focus, partial deaccentuation of background information unit
f0 peak contour on primary information unit, f0 valley contour on background information unit;
peak maximum raised compared with double focus to accentuate contrast between information units

Male speaker:
"Peter invited a few of his friends to a party in his flat. Mary came with Manny."
Female speaker:
"No, Anna came with Manny."
high degree of reinforced accent on primary information unit

Female speaker:
"Peter invited a few of his friends to a party in his flat. Mary came with Manny."
Male speaker:
"No, Anna came with Manny."
lower degree of reinforced accent on primary information unit

Example 1c: Single focus, complete deaccentuation of given information unit


Male speaker:
"Peter invited a few of his friends to a party in his flat. Mary came with Manny."
Female speaker:
"No, Anna came with Manny."


2. Accent coding by non-pitch features

Example 2: Force accent to heighten negative meaning of lexical element


"...Valerie die Treppe runterkickt."
"...kicks Valerie down the stairs."
In the German compound verb runterkickt, the lexical stress is on the adverbial particle runter, not the stem kickt,
and the verbal phrase die Treppe runterkickt gets a pitch accent on Treppe.
In addition, kickt receives a force accent, which strengthens non-sonority, to heighten the negative lexical meaning.


3. Emphasis for contrast and emphasis for intensification

Example 3a: Illustration of contrast

Female speaker:
"There is little improvement."
Male speaker:
"Oh no. There is an enormous improvement."

Example 3b: Illustration of emphasis for intensification


Male speaker:
"There is little improvement."
Female speaker:
"Oh no. There is an enormous improvement."


3.1 Emphasis for contrast in pitch accents: Peak contours

"He used to be slim ."
in mini-dialogues in situational context of looking at old photos of acquaintances

Example 3.1a: Medial peak synchronization for factual information selection

Female speaker:
"Here is an old photo of Ken."
Male speaker:
"He used to be slim."

Example 3.1b: Late-medial peak for rational contrast
between observation and knowledge

Male speaker:
"Here is an old photo of Ken."
Female speaker:
"He used to be slim."

Example 3.1c: Late peak to add personal affective evaluation to contrast
between observation and knowledge

Male speaker:
"Here is an old photo of Ken."
Female speaker:
"He used to be slim."


3.2 Emphasis for contrast in pitch accents: Valley contours

Example 3.2a: Early Valley

Male speaker:
"He's gone to Rome."
Female speaker:
"He's in Rome?"
Surprise echo question without personal affective evaluation

Example 3.2b: Late Valley


Male speaker:
"He's gone to Rome."
Female speaker:
"He's in Rome?"
Surprise echo question with personal affective evaluation


3.3 Emphasis for intensification in pitch accents: positive semantic heightening

Example 3.3a: "He's a gem."

Female speaker:
"He's a gem."

Example 3.3b: "It's lovely."


Female speaker:
"It's lovely."

Example 3.3c: "You did that beautifully."


Female speaker:
"You did that beautifully."

Example 3.3d: "It stinks." (e.g., from lover of smelly cheeses, or irony)


Female speaker:
"It stinks."
Clash between negative lexical and positive prosodic meaning. It is resolved
(a) by adapting the lexical to the prosodic meaning in an appropriate context of situation, e.g., coming from a lover of smelly cheeses, or
(b) by interpreting it as irony.


3.4 Emphasis for intensification in pitch accents: negative semantic heightening

Example 3.4a: "He's an absolute bastard."

Female speaker:
"He's an absolute bastard."

Example 3.4b: "It's disgusting."


Female speaker:
"It's disgusting."

Example 3.4c: "You did that beautifully."


Female speaker:
"You did that beautifully."
Clash between positive lexical and negative prosodic meaning. It is resolved by interpreting it as sarcasm.

Example 3.4d: "It stinks."


Female speaker:
"It stinks."


4. Speaker and listener-oriented FOCUS

Example 4a: Speaker-oriented: information selection - factual contrast - affective contrast

Female speaker:
"We'll meet in Auchterarder tomorrow."
Male speaker:
"Where?"
Requesting more information about the precise location.
Female speaker:
"We'll meet in Auchterarder tomorrow."
Male speaker:
"Where?"
Requesting more information about the precise location, but pointing out the insufficiency of the given information.
Female speaker:
"We'll meet in Auchterarder tomorrow."
Male speaker:
"Where?"
Adding an affective component of irritation.

Example 4b: Listener-oriented: factual surprise - affective surprise


Male speaker:
"We'll go to Auchterarder tomorrow."
Female speaker:
"Where?"
Surprise at unfamiliar name, request for repetition.
Male speaker:
"We'll go to Auchterarder tomorrow."
Female speaker:
"Where?"
Adding affective colouring to surprise at unfamiliar name.

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© Klaus J. Kohler, IPdS Kiel, 2009