Acoustic correlates of encoded prosody in written conversation
Schmidt, Mark Stephen
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This thesis presents an analysis of certain punctuation devices such as parenthesis, italics and emphatic spellings with respect to their acoustic correlates in read speech. The class of punctuation devices under investigation are referred to as prosodic markers. The thesis therefore presents an analysis of features of the spoken language which are represented symbolically in text. Hence it is a characterization of aspects of the spoken language which have been transcribed or symbolized in the written medium and then translated back into a spoken form by a reader. The thesis focuses in particular on the analysis of parenthesis, the examination of encoded prominence and emphasis, and also addresses the use of paralinguistic markers which signal attitude or emotion.In an effort to avoid the use of self constructed or artificial material containing arbitrary symbolic or prosodic encodings, all material used for empirical analysis was taken from examples of electronic written exchanges on the Internet, such as from electronic mail messages and from articles posted on electronic newsgroups and news bulletins. This medium of language, which is referred to here as written conversation, provides a rich source of material containing encoded prosodic markers. These occur in the form of 'smiley faces' expressing attitudes or feelings, words highlighted by a number of means such as capitalization, italics, underscore characters, or asterisks, and in the form of dashes or parentheses, which provide suggestions on how the information in a text or sentence may be structured with regard to its informational content.Chapter 2 investigates in detail the genre of written conversation with respect to its place in an emerging continuum between written and spoken language, concentrating on transcriptional devices and their function as indicators of prosody. The implications these symbolic representations bear on the task of reading, by humans as well as machines, are then examined.Chapters 3 and 4 turn to the acoustic analysis of parentheticals and emphasis markers respectively. The experimental work in this thesis is based on readings of a corpus of selected materials from written conversation with the acoustic analysis concentrating on the differences between readings of texts with prosodic markers and readings of the same texts from which prosodic markers have been removed. Finally, the effect of prosodic markers is tested in perception experiments involving both human and resynthesized utterances.