In a production experiment and two follow-up perception experiments on read German we investigated the relation between givenness (also called information status) and prosody based on a cognitive activation cost model. Previous studies provide evidence that it is the tonal configuration which is important for encoding a referent’s degree of givenness and that different types of more or less activated information demand different accent types as linguistic markers. Therefore, we assume that changes in the degree of a referent’s givenness are reflected in corresponding changes in its degree of prosodic prominence.
Our production and perception data on the prosody of discourse referents reflecting four different levels of givenness confirm this assumption: The prosodic prominence increases as the degree of a referent’s givenness decreases. Furthermore, perception data reveal a stepwise decrease in the degree of perceived givenness from deaccentuation and prenuclear accents through low and early peak nuclear accents to high and rising nuclear accents. Taken together, the experiments indicate that the degree of prosodic prominence can serve as the decisive cue for decoding a referent’s level of givenness. Furthermore, the results contribute to the growing body of evidence for the relevance of different intermediate types of information status between the poles given and new.
©2015 Walter de Gruyter, Berlin Boston
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