Intonation and gesture in the segmentation of speech units

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This paper presents the principles of the co-enunciation theory and some of the applications deriving from it. The base unit is the oral paragraph delimited by a final pitch fall. It is made up of two components, preamble and rheme, which are identifiable through specific intonative properties and gaze movements. Pitch, intensity, duration and pause are defined by a proper abstract iconic value, linked to the speaker’s own representation of the listener’s potential reactions. It implies a complete set of anticipations and recategorisations. Hand gestures may be similarly interpreted, depending on what they reveal about the speaker’s position towards the person s/he is addressing and how easy s/he finds to put his/her thought into words.


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