Peak alignment and surprise reading

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This paper addresses the question of whether the expression of surprise or unexpectedness in spoken Italian (specifically the variety spoken in Florence) correlates with a late F0 peak alignment with the segmental string in prenuclear position, as has already been attested for some languages Kohler (2006) and colleagues for German; Chen, Gussenhoven and Rietveld (2004) for English and Dutch; Arvaniti and Garding (2007) for some variants of English). Corpus analysis of Italian spontaneous speech has shown a negative match between expressions that inherently express surprise, so called exclamatives, and a late peak alignment (i.e. realised after the onset of the following unaccented syllable) in the prenuclear position. Next, two experiments investigated the question of whether listeners systematically interpret surprise or unexpectedness by means of intonation alone. The results show that recognition effects due to intonation are significantly lower than the recognition effects due to context. The last section of this paper discusses the different uses of the term “surprise” and proposes a shift in the investigation from meaning to the psycho-physiological state of surprise and its correlation with some prosodic parameters (hyperarticulation, wider excursion of the pitch movement, voice quality, and so on) (cf. Scherer 1981; Bänziger & Scherer 2005).


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