Complex Vowels as Boundary Correlates in a Multi-Speaker Corpus of Spontaneous English Speech

Claire Brierley and Eric Atwell, University of Bolton

We have found empirical evidence of a correlation in English between words containing complex vowels (diphthongs and triphthongs) and ‘gold-standard’ phrase break annotations in datasets as apparently different as seventeenth-century verse and a Reith lecture transcript on economics from the late twentieth-century. Spontaneous speech in the form of BBC radio news reportage from the 1980s again exhibits this statistically significant correlation for five out of ten speakers, leading to speculation as to why speakers should fall into two distinct groups. The experiment depends on the automatic annotation of text with a priori knowledge from ProPOSEL, a prosody and part-of-speech English lexicon.