[Lingtyp] Utterance boundaries as a universal concept?

Timur Maisak timur.maisak at gmail.com
Thu Dec 15 10:20:27 UTC 2022

Dear David,
Kibrik & Maisak (2021) propose a standard of transcribing spoken discourse,
to be used in descriptive or documentary projects. In particular, the
notion of "elementary discourse unit" is discussed, which is a "minimal
step" in speech production from which sentences/utterances are built. See
Kibrik (2019) for an extended discussion based on the Upper Kuskokwim data.
On the segmentation of spontaneous speech into intonational phrases, see
also Himmelmann et al. (2018).

Timur Maisak

Himmelmann N., Sandler M., Strunk J., Unterladstetter V. 2018. On the
universality of intonational phrases: A cross-linguistic interrater study.
Phonology. Vol. 35. No. 2. Pp. 207–245.

Kibrik A.A. 2019. Upper Kuskokwim (Athabaskan, Alaska): Elementary
discourse units and other aspects of local discourse structure.
Anthropological linguistics. Vol. 61. No. 2. Pp. 141–182.

Кибрик А.А., Майсак Т.А. 2021. Правила дискурсивной транскрипции для
описательных и документационных исследований.Rhema. Рема. № 2. С. 23–45.
(From a Special issue "Documentation, description, explanation: Aleksandr
Е. Kibrik’s scientific heritage in the study of minor languages",

чт, 15 дек. 2022 г. в 12:36, David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de>:

> Ian, and everybody,
> My impression is that the notion of "utterance" is every bit as
> problematical as that of "word" — though it seems like there as not been
> as much discussion about utterances as there has been about words.
> I was particularly struck by the lack of clarity of the notion of
> utterance when developing our Max Planck Institute naturalistic corpora
> in Jakarta.  When transcribing our naturalistic data, our goal was to
> enter each utterance into a separate field in our database; however, we
> had no clear set of principles how to parse a continuous say hour-long
> text into such utterances.  While for many purposes it didn't really
> matter, for some it most clearly did.  Ian's proposed generalizations
> might be a case in point, but the case that struck me as most cogent was
> in the field of 1st language acquisition, for which we compiled a large
> corpus.  In child language studies, a central role is played by the
> notion of MLU, or Mean Length of Utterance, so obviously we wanted to
> examine our data in terms of MLU.  But it was patently clear that our
> parsings into utterances were arbitrary and problematical in many ways,
> which got me to wondering whether this was due to our own ignorance, or
> alternatively a more general problem that should perhaps be addressed.
> I must confess I haven't thought much about this recently, but I'm now
> wondering:  Are there any go-to references on how to parse a text into
> utterances, or is this indeed a lacuna that still needs to be filled?
> David
> On 15/12/2022 07:31, Ian Joo wrote:
> > Dear typologists,
> >
> > many grammars employ the terms “word-initial”, “word-final”, and
> “word-medial”, without specifying what a “word” is.
> > And, as we have discussed earlier, there is no consensus on what a
> “word” is, or whether it is a cross-linguistically valid concept.
> > But can we at least agree that the following concepts are universal:
> “utterance-initial”, “utterance-final”, and “utterance-medial”?
> > As all human utterances are finite (signed or spoken), the corollary is
> that there is a beginning, the ending, and phases in between.
> > For example, instead of saying that “a lect does not allow /r/
> word-initially”, can we say that it does not allow /r/ utterance-initially?
> > Would it save us from the conceptual ambiguity of woordhood?
> >
> >  From Hong Kong,
> > Ian
> > _______________________________________________
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> --
> David Gil
> Senior Scientist (Associate)
> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
> Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
> Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig, 04103, Germany
> Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
> Mobile Phone (Israel): +972-526117713
> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-082113720302
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