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Pragmatic factors condition a word's pronunciation


Ernestus,  Mirjam
Radboud University Nijmegen;
Centre for Language Studies, External Organization;
Language Comprehension Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;


Stivers,  Tanya
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Sociology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, USA;

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Ernestus, M., Stivers, T., & De Ruiter, J. P. (2011). Pragmatic factors condition a word's pronunciation. Poster presented at The 17th Meeting of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology [ESCOP 2011], San Sebastian, Spain.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-27A4-3
Words are often shorter and contain fewer segments in casual than in formal speech. For instance, in casual Dutch, the word <natuurlijk> 'of course' is often reduced to <tuurlijk>, or even <tuuk>. This type of pronunciation variation is generally ascribed to general mechanisms of speech production. We investigated whether it is also conditioned by pragmatic factors. We studied the acoustic characteristics of 177 tokens of Dutch <natuurlijk> and 184 tokens of Dutch <eigenlijk> 'actually', extracted from spontaneous speech corpora. We classified their Turn Constructional Units (TCUs) as constituting responses to prior TCUs or as initiating new conversational topics. We hypothesized that <natuurlijk> and <eigenlijk> are more reduced in initiating TCUs, since in these TCUs they typically convey that aspects of the turn contain old information and violate a norm of conversation. This hypothesis was supported by our data. <Natuurlijk> and <eigenlijk> are shorter in duration and in number of syllables in initiating than in responsive TCUs. Nevertheless, the syllable <na> of <natuurlijk> is more often present in initiating than in responsive TCUs. These results show that pragmatic factors condition degree and type of reduction. Psycholinguistic models of speech production have to account for interactions between pragmatics and general production mechanisms.