Beyond lab phonology the phonetics of speech communication
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Beyond Lab Phonology The Phonetics of Speech Communication. Klaus J. Kohler IPDS, Kiel, Germany. Paper at the Conference on Methods in Phonology Berkeley, 20 - 23 May 2004. 1Introduction. Every science develops paradigms sets of theoretical and methodological principles,

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Beyond Lab Phonology The Phonetics of Speech Communication

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Beyond Lab PhonologyThe Phonetics of Speech Communication

Klaus J. Kohler

IPDS, Kiel, Germany

Paper at the Conference on Methods in Phonology

Berkeley, 20 - 23 May 2004


  • Every science develops paradigms

    • sets of theoretical and methodological principles,

    • which are only partly determined by scentific phenomena, far more by the sociology of science;

    • they are passed on through the teaching of an influential, often missionary discipleship,

    • and they are finally codified in textbooks.

  • Change means revolution

    • Historical Linguistics of the 19th c.

    • Structuralism in 1/20th c.

    • Generative Grammar since the 2/20th c.

  • Applies to the analysis of the spoken medium too.

    • experimental, signal-oriented phonetics > science discipline: Rousselot, Scripture, Panconcelli-Calzia

    • descriptive, symbol-oriented phonetics > humanities discipline: Jespersen, Passy, Sievers, Sweet, Viëtor

    • phonology in Prague Circle and American Structuralism > new discipline within linguistics and humanities

    • conceptualization of a science-humanities dualism

    • Linguistic concepts, e.g. the phoneme, imported into psychology and engineering labs

      • to be filled with phonetic substance in production and perception experiments

      • adequacy of linguistic concepts for new questions taken for granted

      • > ‘categorical speech perception’, ‘the speech code’, ‘the motor theory of speech perception’

    • analysis of minute detail in word-phonology frame

      • e.g. array of phonetic parameters for voiced/ voiceless plosives in word or logatome contrasts in isolation or in metalinguistic phrases

      • even rejection of established phonological rules, e.g. neutralization of word-final voicing in German

    • poor methodology in subject selection, word material, experimental design and blind application of statistics

    • inferential significance interpreted as category difference

  • results of limited value for explanation of speech communication

  • This is the paradigm of ‘phonology-going-into-the-lab’.

    • It reached its climax with the Lab Phonology series.

    • Lab Phonology > natural science

      • filling known phonological categories with phonetic substance under lab conditions

      • thus alleviating the modularization into phonetics and phonology

      • but new dilemma: categoricalness vs. gradience of phonological categories

    • Neither the phonological categories nor the phonetic measurements of Lab Phonology

      • need represent language structures in communication

      • they may even reflect incongruous metalinguistic domains

    • thus extrapolation to real speakers and listeners problematic, but standard practice in Lab Phonology

    • return to the philosophy of science approach of early 20th c. in spite of sophisticated theorizing and analysis

    • Pierrehumbert, J., Beckman, E. M., Ladd, D. R.: Conceptual foundations of phonology as a laboratory science. In: N. Burton-Roberts, P. Carr, G. Docherty (eds.), Phonological Knowledge. Oxford: OUP, 273-3003 (2000).

    • Part of the Lab Phonology paradigm is the prosodic framework of Autosegmental-Metrical Phonology/ToBI

      • none of the many prosodic paradigms

        • British School, Halliday, Dutch Model, Swedish Model, Danish Model, Fujisaki-Model, AM-Phonology/ToBI, KIM (The Kiel Intonation Model)

      • have been carried round the globe with greater zeal than AM-Phonology and its tool ToBI.

    • It has little concern for the communicative categories “Time”, “Listener” and “Function”:

      • it lacks concern for “Time”, because it defines intonation contours independently of time

      • it also lacks concern for the “Listener”, because it focuses on production

      • and it lacks concern for “Function” in a wide sense, because it concentrates on linguistic function, if it considers function at all.

    • But these categories are corner-stones in the paradigm of ‘phonology-coming-out-of-the-lab’.

    • I will now look at the phonology of f0 peaks under two perspectives

      • Lab Phonology with ‘phonology-going-into-the-lab’

        • L-H categorization independent of “time”

        • phonetic alignment independent of the “listener”

        • detached from “function”

    • Communicative Phonetics with ‘phonology-coming-out-of-the-lab’

      • “time”, “listener”, “function” define intonational categories

      • phonetic substance determines phonological form

      • and provides a direct link to “function”: The Frequency Code

    2The Phonology of f0 Peaks

    2.1Pitch accents and alignment in AM/ToBI

    • Timeless phonological categorization of intonation peaks in AM-Phonology/ToBI: H+L* vs (L+)H* vs L*+H

    • post hoc introduction of time as phonetic alignment in a considerable number of lab speech studies in English, German, Dutch, Greek, e.g. R.D. Ladd

    • Esther Grabe‘s ComparativeIntonational Phonologyof English and German (1998)

      • lab data on the production of H*+L were collected for both languages in parallel contexts

      • it is postulated, but not explicated that both languages contain the same intonational category in their phonological inventories

      • this category is filled with phonetic substance through measuring f0-peak alignment

      • result: later position in German than in English

    • but the contexts in the data acquistion were not identical for the two languages

      • ”Anna and Peter are watching TV. A photograph of this week's National Lottery winner appears. Anna says: Look, Peter! It's ...! Our new neighbour!”

      • ”Anna und Peter sehen fern: Ein Lottogewinner wird vorgestellt. Anna sagt: Na sowas! Das ist doch Herr ...! Unser neuer Nachbar!”

    • surprise in Germ. “Na sowas!” (“Well I never!”), reinforced by “doch”, absent from “Look, Peter!”

    • in such a context German uses a semantically contrastive late peak position

    • this shows that

      • “function” is already important at data collection

      • different phonological synchronizations of f0 contours with articulation need to be distinguished from variable phonetic alignment to avoid misinterpretation

    2.2“Time”, “Listener”, “Function” in f0 contours

    2.2.1Synchronization of pitch patterns

    • backed by long-standing research at IPDS Kiel KIM: The Kiel Intonation Model cf Lab Phonology I

    • global contours (peaks, valleys)

    • new experimental paradigm

      • whole F0 peak contour shifted in equal steps

      • through segmentally constant utterance

      • for perceptual pitch changes

      • and associated semantic features

    • synchronization of pitch and articulatory time courses

    • 3 peak contour positions to be differentiated in relation to articulatory timing of accented syllables

      • early

      • medial

      • late

    • listener has a central role

    Germ. Sie hat ja gelogen. “She’s been lying.”


    • pragmatic function of peak contour synchronization

      • early - finality

        • knowing

        • summarizing

        • coming to the end of an argument

        • resignation

    • medial - openness

      • observing

      • realising

      • starting a new argument

    • late - unexpectedness

      • observing, realising in contrast to one‘s expectation

      • surprise

      • disbelief

    2.2.2Internal pitch timing in peak contours

    • recent research at IPDS Kiel

      • Oliver Niebuhr MA dissertation2003“Perzeptorische Untersuchungen zu Zeit-variablen in Grundfrequenzgipfeln” in German

      • Tamara Khromovskikh MA dissertation 2003 “Perzeptionsuntersuchungen zur Intonation der Frage im Russischen”

    • the rise and the fall of a peak contour

      • slow

      • fast

    • independent changes of rise and fall speeds

    • softening of ‘finality’ of early peak by slow fall

    • further increase of ‘openness’ by fast rise

    • perceptual interaction between synchronization and internal timing

    Germ. Sie hat ja gelogen. “She’s been lying.”

    2.2.3AM Phonology and KIM compared

    • alignment in ToBI and peak position in KIM are fundamentally different concepts

      • in KIM the time dimension is anchored in the phonological categories themselves

      • in ToBI it is a phonetic addition post festum

      • “Time” has the same conceptual value at the prosodic level in KIM as it has at the segmental level in Articulatory Phonology

    2.3Findings from other languages

    • Russian

      • yes-no questions lack syntactic markers

      • synchronization and internal timing effects in F0 coding of statements vs. yes-no questions

        • early vs. late peak positions

        • combined with slow rise + fast fall vs. fast rise + slow fall

        • and by additional lower vs. higher peak value

    • Bulgarian

      • narrow-focus statement vs. question show the same differences in

        • synchronization

        • and internal timing

          as in Russian

      • Bistra Andreeva, Saarbrücken: production data

    • Pisa Italian

      • broad focus vs. narrow contrast

        • in former, F0 maximum of peak contour later and trailing off more slowly

      • Barbara Gili Fivela, “Tonal alignment in two Pisa Italian peak accents”, Speech Prosody 2002, production data

    • Neapolitan Italian

      • statement vs. question

        • later synchronization of F0 peaks

        • and strengthening of high F0 in the descent

          for questions

      • Mariapaola d'Imperio, “The Role of Perception in Defining Tonal Targets and their Alignment”, PhD thesis, OSU, 2000, perception data

    • Bari Italian

      • commands vs. questions

      • based on the sentence "lo mandi a Massimiliano“

        • later peak position as well as a faster rise in questions

      • Martine Grice& Michelina Savino, “Low tone versus 'sag' in Bari Italian intonation; a perceptual experiment”, ICPhS Stockholm 1995, perception data

    2.4Explaining the data

    • reference to two theoretical principles

      • auditory contrast in contours at specific syllable points (auditory enhancement, cf. Diehl & Kluender)

      • and J. Ohala‘s Frequency Code

    • contrastive high-low vs low-high pitch change in consonant - vowel transition of the accented syllable for early vs medial peak

    • consonant - vowel transition crucial because of increase in intensity, heightening pitch change

    • low-high change later in vowel: late peak

    • focus on change to low or high pitch in the accented vowel linked to semantics of ‘finality’vs. ‘opennesss’ in the German data

    • J. Ohala’sFrequency Code:

      • an attempt to relate phonetic substance

        • high vs. low F0

      • to social behaviour

        • subordination vs. dominance

      • subsequent explanation of linguistic form

        • use of high or rising F0, e.g. in questions in the languages of the world

    • may also be applied to the high/low contrast for the semantics of ‘opennesss’ vs. ‘finality’, which includes ‘subordination’ vs. ‘dominance’

    • all peak alignment data and functions they serve in the different languages can be subsumed under the same two principles of auditory enhancement and Frequency Code

    • later, faster rising and higher F0 peak configuration contains all the ingredients for a low-high pitch contrast in an accented vowel to mark the question function vs statement/command

    3Developing the new paradigm

    • The goal of phonetics is the elucidation of speech communication

      • of the relationship between phonetic substance and communicative function

      • with linguistic form being derived from this relationship.

    • Corollaries

      • neither substance nor function can be analysed without the other

        • measurement must take place within communicative domains

          • go beyond lab speech

          • take spontaneous speech into the lab

    • functional categories must be established in relation to substantive parameters in production and perception

      • go beyond systemic linguistic contrasts

      • include the whole spectrum of the behavioural sound - meaning relationship

    • metalinguistically derived phonological form has no more than a heuristic value in this elucidation

      • word phonology must be supplemented by the phonetic manifestation in utterances

      • prosodic categories of isolated sentences by the prosodic structures of speech interaction

    • The supplement is provided by systematic analysis of large corpora of speech interaction

      • segmental and prosodic annotation on the basis of provisional phonological categories of lab speech, e.g. Kiel Corpus of SpontaneousSpeech

      • context-sensitive search operations

      • measurements for sound classes and pitch patterns in search files

      • statistics applied to symbol and signal data

    • return to lab speech experiments on the basis of results of corpus analysis

    • revision of the initial heuristic categories to bring them in line with the phonetics of speech communication

    • ‘phonology-coming-out-of-the-lab’

    • This progression of steps has largely been carried out in the analysis of f0 peaks in German.


    • Speech analysis is not just a metalinguistic academic pursuit

    • but aims at describing and explaining language and speech behaviour

      • in realistic communicative situations

      • with reference to such central concepts as function, time and the listener

      • and general principles in production and perception.

    • There is growing unease with mainstream prosodic theory and practice, e.g. ToBI

    • fair amount of rumbling at Speech Prosody 2002/4

      • Yi Xu went as far as giving priority to function over lingistic form.

      • When we combine this with Björn Lindblom’s priority of substance over linguistic form, we capture the future of phonetics, which I have attempted to sketch in this paper

        • the relation between function and substance

        • linguistic form as derivative from it.

    • This movement will gather momentum in years to come

    • and the categories I have been talking about today will no doubt play a central role

      • in the development of a comprehensive theory of speech communication

      • and in the description of speech behaviour in the languages of the world.

    • We will then have a new paradigm, the Paradigm of Function-Oriented Experimental Phonetics.

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