Focus and Prosodic Prominence

Lecturer(s):Sasha Calhoun (University of Edinburgh) and T.Florian Jaeger (Stanford University)
Type:Introductory Course
Section:Language and Computation
Time: 9.00-10.30 (Slot 1)
Room:EM 3.06


[Please have a look at the detailed and updated course website:

We review linguistic approaches to the question of how semantic focus is
related to prosodic prominence. Three aspects of focus standardly held to
be distinguished prosodically are covered: given and new information,
broad and narrow focus, contrastive and non-contrastive focus. The first
two lectures set out the common view that these contrasts are marked by
pitch accents, and indeed that this is the purpose of pitch accents. The
later lectures give evidence this approach is too narrow. We will show
that semantic focus can be marked by non-pitch-based acoustic cues and
consider the prosodic marking of givenness, or non-focus, leading to a
discussion in the final lecture, by invited speaker Bob Ladd (University
of Edinburgh), as to why
pitch accent placement needs to be considered within the overall prosodic
hierarchy of an utterance.

The relationship between focus and prosodic prominence constitutes one of
the central concerns of those working on the syntax-phonology interface
the past 30 years. Further, the relevance to computational linguistics -
both to speech recognition/information extraction and the production of
appropriate intonation for speech synthesis - is obvious. We believe the
time is ripe both for the application of computational methods to the
theoretical questions and more detailed application of prosodic knowledge
in recognition and synthesis. We hope, in this course, to set up the
groundwork for such interdisciplinary work.


© ESSLLI 2005 Organising Committee 2005-08-11