From “intonation units” to cesuring – an alternative approach to the prosodic-phonetic structuring of talk-in-interaction

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This paper focuses on the prosodic-phonetic structuring of talk. Induced by problems of previous studies of ‘intonation units’, it promotes an alternative approach which focuses on what separates the units. Radicalizing Auer’s (2010) boundary approach, it introduces the concept ‘cesura’ and advocates an impressionistic and parametric analysis. The latter shows that cesuras result from clusters of certain prosodic-phonetic parameter changes. These vary in strength, which, in turn, can also explain “fuzzy boundaries”. The approach proposes to acknowledge cesuras of all kinds to adequately reflect the complexity of the prosodic-phonetic structuring of talk-in-interaction and to provide new insights into the organization of responding to multi-unit turns and new tools for researching the syntax-prosody interface as well as language variation and change.


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