Prosodic Effects of Discourse Salience and Association with Focus

Michael Wagner, McGill University
M. Breen, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
E. Flemming and Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, MIT
E. Gibson, MIT

Three factors that have been argued to influence the prosody of an utterance are (i) which constituents encode discourse-salient information; (ii) which constituents are contrastive in that they evoke alternatives; and (iii) which constituents interact with the meaning of focus operators such as only (i.e., they ‘associate’ with focus). One challenge for a better understanding of these factors and their interaction has been the difficulty of finding a way to evaluate hypotheses quantitatively, since individual variation in productions is often large enough to wash out experimental effects. In this paper, we apply a methodology introduced in [1] to control for such variation and present evidence for how the three factors interact to influence prosody in sentences containing single or multiple foci.