Shaping the intonation of Wh-questions: information structure and beyond Aoju Chen Max Planck institute for psycholinguistics Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 31 March, 2008
Pitch accent: pitch peak or trough usually associated with the stressed syllable of a word Introduction (1) There will be a flea market this weekend. H*L L*H Where will Marina want to sell her mandolin?
Introduction (2) • Accent placement WH-word Open Sentence (OS) (Lambrecht & Michaelis 1998) will Marina sell her mandolin? Where
Introduction (3) • Information structure (IS) governs accent placement in WH-questions • Information (or proposition) new to the hearer vs. information known to the hearer • Focus vs. topic/background • In WH-questions • The WH-word is the focus (because …) • The OS is the topic • e.g. As to the fact that Marina will sell her mandolin somewhere, I want to be told where this will be. • Previous approaches differ in the ‘how’ part • Must the WH-word be accented (because it is focal)? • If not, when does the WH-word get accented? • When does a constituent in the OS get accented?
Two opposing views • The ‘right-asymmetry’ view(Lambrecht & Michaelis 1998, for English) • The WH-word is typically not accented; its focal status is marked by its form and position • Accenting the WH-word only if the propositions in the OS have been intensively under discussion before (i.e. ratified) • Constituents in the OS get accented only if the propositions conveyed have only been touched upon in the previous discourse • The ‘left-asymmetry’ view (Haan 2001,for Dutch) • The WH-word must be accented, regardless of the IS of the OS, because it is focal • Constituents in the OS can be focal (focus of introduction) and therefore get accented Waar wil Marina haar mandoline verkopen? Where will Marina want to sell her mandolin?
Haan (2001) • A corpus of 200 tokens of 2 WH-questions recorded by 10 native speakers of Dutch (repeated reading) • WH-question preceded or followed by a context sentence • 186 tokens included for analyses 71% 29% Waar wil Marina haar mandoline verkopen? • Role of information structure is hard to assess in repeated reading • The WH-word is accented regardless of IS, supporting Haan • Or: the proposition in the OS is ratified, supporting L&M • But why accenting constituents in the OS?
Hedberg and Sosa (2002) • A corpus of 35 WH-questions selected from American television shows • 34 WH-questions without negator ‘not’ • In 29 cases, the proposition in the OS could be traced back in the earlier context • In 5 cases, the proposition in the OS was new • In 33 of the cases, the WH-word was accented; constituents in the OS were also accented, supporting both Haan’s left-asymmetric view
What do we know now? • It is still unclear how accent placement is governed by information structure in natural context • L&M: rely heavily on carefully constructed WH-questions in made-up contexts • Haan: repeated reading • Hedberg and Saosa: the status of the proposition in the OS may be too generally analysed
A corpus of naturally occurring Dutch WH-questionsChen (2006) • 90 naturally occurring WH-questions from the Spoken Dutch Corpus (CGN) • Criteria for selection • A balanced representation of different types of WH-questions • Waarom (why) • Wanneer (when) • Wat (wat) • Why these three types? • Mostly uttered by speakers from the regions where a variety close to the standard variety is spoken • Discourse type suitable for reliable analysis of information structure • Mostly broadcast interviews, discussions, and debates • Occasionally spontaneous face-to-face or telephone conversations • Clear speech signal • Function as real questions, uttered to require information from the hearer(s)
Annotation of intonation • The ToDI notation(Gussenhoven 2005)
The inter-annotator agreement test A • A second annotator • Native speaker of Dutch • Not aware of the purpose of this study • Received a short tutorial on ToDI • Annoated intonation of the WH-words in terms of accented vs. not accented • Inter-annotator agreement • 87% for accent placement on the WH-word.
First step towards a clearer picture • If the WH-word must be accented (because of its focal status) regardless of the IS in the OS, as claimed by Haan, we should see the WH-word is accented all the time. • Question 1: How frequently is the WH-word accented in natural speech in Dutch?
accented WH-word unaccented WH-word total waarom 27(90%) 3 (10%) 30 wanneer 23 (77%) 7 (23%) 30 wat 19 (63%) 11 (37%) 30 total 69 (77%) 21 (23%) 90 Q1: How frequently is the WH-word accented? Table 1. The frequency of WH-questions with/without an accent on the WH-word. • Although the WH-word is frequently accented, it is unaccented in 23% of the WH-questions on average • This is contra Haan’s view • Most frequently accented in waarom-questions: an effect of question type ( But why ‘waarom’?)
Recall: The intonation of the WH-word is related to the information structure of the OS (L&M 1998 for English) • Q2: Is the intonation of the WH-word dependent on the information structure of the OS in Dutch WH-questions?
Propositions in the Open Sentence • Status before the WH-question is uttered: • Having been intensively under discussion • Having been briefly touched upon • Having not been discussed at all Topicality Presupposition (TP) Knowledge Presupposition (KP) Neither TP or KP L&M (1998)
TP KP KP ≠ TP TP KP ≠ TP KP Accent WH-word KP = TP
Q2: Is the intonation of the WH-word dependent on the information structure of the OS? • Does the sameness of the KP and the TP make it more likely for the WH-word to be accented than unaccented? • Does discrepancy between the KP and the TP make it more likely for the WH-word to be unaccented than accented?
The inter-annotator agreement test B • A second annotator • Native speaker of Dutch • Not aware of the purpose of this study • Received a short tutorial on ToDI. • Annoated intonation of the WH-words in terms of accented vs. not accented • Received readings on the basic concepts of L&M model • Annotated information structure of the OS in terms of TP, KP and ‘neither’ • Inter-annotator agreement • 87% for accent placement on the WH-word • 73% for labels of information structure
KP=TP accented WH-word unaccented WH-word total waarom 18 (90%) 2 (10%) 20 wanneer 11 (100%) 0 11 wat 8 (89%) 1 (11%) 9 total 37 (93%) 3 (7%) 40 Q2A: If KP=TP, will the WH-word be more often accented? Table 2. Frequencies of WH-questions with/without an accent on the WH-word when KP = TP in the OS. • The WH-word is nearly always accented when the KP and the TP are identical, arguably according with L&M’s claim
KP=TP: accented WH-word vs. unaccented WH-word • Example 1-1.waarom_fn000042_48_N00028_Rivieren • Context: The interviewer was talking to Marianne Schlaman, an expert in Dutch studies in Nijmegen, about a series of evening presentations given by Dutch writers. Mrs. Schlaman went to the presentations on the first evening. Interviewer: Maar waarom was je naar de avond gegaan? But why did you go to this evening? • TP: ‘you went to this evening’
KP=TP: accented WH-word vs. unaccented WH-word • Example 2 – 2.waarom_fn007514_58_N03402_Utrecht • Context: Oscar, interviewee, explained to the interviewers (there were two) that men and women were more alike than the feminists would like to admit. Male interviewer: Waarom zouden feministen dit vervelend vinden eigenlijk? Why would feminists find this annoying actually? • TP: ‘feminists would find this annoying’
KP=TP: accented WH-word vs. unaccented WH-word • Example 3 – 10.waarom_fn007252_83_N03115_Nholland • Context: The interviewee was Jacques Booy, a member of the Federation of Dutch tax advisors. Mr Booy talked to the interviewer about Minister of Finance Mr. Zalm’s new tax plan (for 2001) and in particular, commented on the weak points of this plan. The most discontenting weak point was that Mr. Zalm and his vice-minister Mr. Vermeend were rushing this very important plan through Parliament. Interviewer: Waarom hebben ze zoveel haast? Why are they in such a hurry? • TP: ‘they are in a hurry’
KP=TP: accented WH-word vs. unaccented WH-word • Example 4 – 11.waarom_fn007489_10_N03131_Zholland • Context: The interviewee was Herman Vuijsje, a sociologist and political commentator. Mr. Vuijsje told the interviewer that it was not the time yet for tip-off lines but people were at last ready to discuss this issue. This was different a few years ago because people tended to associate tip-off lines with betrayals during the Second World War. Interviewer: Waarom komen mensen altijd met die oorlog aanzetten? Why do people always start mentioning the war? • TP: ‘people always start mentioning the war’
KP≠TP accented WH-word unaccented WH-word total waarom 9 (90%) 1 (10%) 10 wanneer 12 (63%) 7 (37%) 19 wat 11 (52%) 10 (48%) 21 total 32 (64%) 18 (36%) 50 Q2B: If KP ≠ TP, will the WH-word be more often unaccented? Table 3. Frequencies of WH-questions with/without an accent on the WH-word when KP≠TP in the OS. • The WH-word is observably more frequently accented than unaccented • This trend is the strongest in waarom-questions: an effect of question type • Discrepancy between the KP and the TP does not prevent the WH-word from being accented more often, contra L&M
KP≠TP: accented WH-word vs. unaccented WH-word • Example 5 – 5.waarom_fn007297_62_N03024_Zholland • Context: The interviewee was Remco Meijer, the author of the book Aan het hof . He described to the interviewer the organization of the court. The interviewer then brought up that Queen Beatrix reorganised the court after she was crowned. Interviewer: Waarom was dat nodig? Why was that necessary? • TP: ‘that’ (reorganizing the court) • KP: was necessary
KP≠TP: accented WH-word vs. unaccented WH-word • Example 6 – 19.waarom_fn007338_52_N03011_Nholland • Context: The interviewee talked about the problem that many asylumseekers claimed falsely to be younger than 18 in order to be treated as underage asylumseekers. He told the interviewer the medical examination conducted to establish whether someone was younger than 18 in doubtful cases. Interviewer: Maar waarom vinden ze ‘t zo belangrijk om zich uit te geven voor achttien in plaats van uh tweeëntwintig? But why do they find it so important to pretend to be 18 instead of 22? • TP: ‘they’ and ‘pretended to be 18’ • KP: find it important to pretend to be 18 instead of 22
KP≠TP: accented WH-word vs. unaccented WH-word • Example 7 – 8.waarom_fn007150_30_N03020_Nholland • Context: The interviewer talked to Hans van Wissen, who published a provocative article in de Volkskrant about the scandal that crown prince Willem-Alexander promised not to run for the IOC but nevertheless has become a member of the IOC. Mr. van Wissen found this very disappointing because it was not how things should work. Interviewer: Ja waarom heeft u zich dan niet wat journalistiek terughoudener opgesteld? Yes why didn’t you reacted journalistically in a more reserved manner? • TP: ‘you’ (Hans van Wissen) • KP: were not journalistically reserved
KP≠TP: accented WH-word vs. unaccented WH-word • Example 15 –30.wanneer_fn006711_21_N05003_noInterview_Nholland • Context: Speaker N01163 talked to speaker N05003 what she and her family could do in their (ski) holiday if there would not be enough snow. • N05003: En wanneer gaan jullie weg? And when are you leaving? • TP: ‘you’ • KP: are leaving
KP≠TP: accented WH-word vs. unaccented WH-word • Example 16 –9. wanneer_fn008143_39_N08108_noInterview_Nholland • Context: Speaker N08108 told speaker N08109 that Eric called him yesterday. They then recalled what they did together with Eric on Queen’s day and tried to establish when Eric went home. Speaker N08109 believed that Eric either left before him or a bit after him. N08108: En en en uh uh wanneer ben jij dan naar huis gegaan? And and and uh uh when did you go home then? • TP: ‘went home’ • KP: ‘you’ (N08109)
Q2:Is there a relationship between the intonation of the WH-word and the information structure of the OS? • The intonation of the WH-word is NOT independent of the information structure of the OS, contra Haan (2001) • When KP=TP, the WH-word is nearly always accented • Intriguingly, the sameness of the KP and TP is not a necessary condition for the WH-word to get accented, contra L&M • The WH-word gets accented (64%) also when KP≠TP • Probably communicative motivation for the speaker to accent the WH-word • Accenting shows a strong desire to obtain the information required via the WH-word (e.g. why-questions)
Accent assignment in the OS The ‘left-asymmetry’ view (Haan 2001) The ‘right-asymmetry’ view (L&M 1998) • An accent can be assigned to a TP and a KP • The accents in the OS tend to be realised with a smaller pitch range than the accent on the WH-word • An accent cannot be assigned to a TP • The accents in the OS are not formally different from the accent on the WH-word
Q3: Can TP constituents be accented? • TP constituents are accented in 34% of the WH-questions. • This supports Haan but not L&M • Example 2 – 2.waarom_fn007514_58_N03402_Outrecht [H*L on ‘vervelend’] • Example 3 – 10.waarom_fn007252_83_N03115_Nholland • [L*H on ‘haast’]
Q4: Are the accents in the OS realised with a reduced pitch range? • Yes, sometimes. • Reduced pitch accent (14% of WH-questions with an accented WH-word) • Pitch setup (17%)
Q5: Are accents in the OS only assigned to KP and TP? (1) • NO. • In 13% of the WH-questions an accent is assigned to an adverb; the WH-word is not accented • These adverbs have no topical relation to the presupposition in the OS; they introduce a new meaning element to the discourse • These adverbs are • eigenlijk ‘actually • juist ‘exactly’ • nou ‘now’ • precies ‘precisely’ • specifiek ‘specifically’ • toch ‘nevertheless’ • wel ‘well’ • zo ‘so’
Q5: Are accents in the OS only assigned to KP and TP? (2) • Observed functions of these adverbs • Intensify the contrast between the current proposition and the set of possible propositions (e.g. ‘specifiek’) • Affirm the truth value of the proposition (e.g. ‘wel’) • Highlight a shift of attention from the topic at utterance time to a different one (e.g. ‘eigenlijk’ actually) • Common effect of these accented adverbs • The speaker sounds more engaged and eager to find out the information required via the WH-word
Conclusions • The intonation of the WH-word is to some extent related to the information structure of the OS, contra Haan (2001) • Communicative motivation may play a role in accent assignment … • TP constituents can be accented; sometimes accents in the OS can be realised with a reduced pitch range or pitch step-up • Accents are also assigned to a group of adverbs in the OS that appear to introduce a new meaning dimension • Lack of accent on the WH-word (to avoid ‘accent clash’)