[Lingtyp] Utterance boundaries as a universal concept?

Ian Joo I.Joo at tilburguniversity.edu
Sun Dec 18 04:55:00 UTC 2022

Dear John,

thank you for pointing that out.
Could you please give us the full reference of the works you mentioned? (Himmelmann & Troiani; Toiani & Du Bois; Lai & Du Bois; Degand et al.)
We would much appreciate it.


16/12/2022 오전 1:34, John DuBois <dubois at ucsb.edu> 작성:

I agree with David that "utterance" is far from a trivial unit to reliably identify from continuous discourse.

Far more reliable is the intonation unit. Intonation unit boundaries are universally and reliably recognizable based on prosodic cues alone, even in a language you don't know. See Himmelmann, and Troiani.) Intonation units thus have a well-defined beginning, middle, and end (unlike the other units).

New work by Giorgia Toiani and myself on Kazakh presents a solid methodology for confirming inter-transcriber reliability for intonation units.

Further, new work by Ryan Ka Yau Lai and myself on English shows in detail what it means for a word to be initial, medial or final in the intonation unit. (We'll present this next month at LSA.) This has consequences for typological concepts like so-called "sentence-final particle", some of which are probably actually intonation-unit-final.

We are also developing a prosodic operationalization of the utterance, based on a sequence of 1 or more intonation units.

In addition to the very interesting work by Kibrik and colleagues on basic discourse units, there is equally interesting work along the same lines by Liesbeth Degand and her students. These 2 initiatives are closer to operationalizing something like "utterance" in a meaningful way. Still, it's not clear if the reliability of these units can reach the level of the intonation unit, nor of the prosodically-defined utterance.

John W. Du Bois
Professor of Linguistics
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California 93106
dubois at ucsb.edu<mailto:dubois at ucsb.edu>

On Thu, Dec 15, 2022, 1:36 AM David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de<mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>> wrote:
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?


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
> _______________________________________________
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
> https://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp

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<mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>
Mobile Phone (Israel): +972-526117713
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-082113720302

Lingtyp mailing list
Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Lingtyp mailing list
Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20221218/1cea4a5d/attachment.htm>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list