Communicative functions integrate segments in prosodies and prosodies in segments
This paper takes a new look at the traditionally established divide between sounds and prosodies, viewing it as a useful heuristics in language descriptions that focus on the segmental make- up of words. It pleads for a new approach that bridges this reified compartmentalization of speech in a more global communicative perspective. Data are presented from a German perception experiment in the framework of the Semantic Differential that shows interdependence of f0 contours and the spectral characteristics of a following fricative segment, for the expression of semantic functions along the scales questioning - asserting, excited - calm, forceful - not forceful, contrary - agreeable. The results lead to the conclusion that segments shape prosodies and are shaped by them in varying ways in the coding of semantic functions. This implies that the analysis of sentence prosodies needs to integrate the manifestation of segments, just as the analysis of segments needs to consider their prosodic embedding. In communicative interaction, speakers set broad prosodic time windows of varying sizes, and listeners respond to them. So, future phonetic research needs to concentrate on speech analysis in such windows.
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