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Auteur: Marina SNESAREVA

Speech Tempo Changes and Information Status in Modern Irish

Abstract/Résumé: There exist various prosodic means of expressing the type of information in the communication process, speech tempo changes being one of them. This phenomenon has already been described by modern scholars (cf. Trouvain 2003), but as for the Irish language, speech tempo and its functioning in communication has remained so far beyond the scope of investigation. Speech tempo does not remain unchanged in the process of speaking, otherwise the speech would be considered monotonous or even not human. Such changes do not occur spontaneously; they are closely related to the content plain of the utterance. As successful communication presupposes constant interaction between the speaker and the listener, the former tends to use some additional means to ensure the audience can follow him and interpret the reported information correctly. Thus, the speaker may attract the listener’s attention to certain parts of the utterance by changing the prosodic organisation of such chunks of speech, accentuating important words and word-combinations as well as by slowing down his speech tempo (Tomlin et al 1997:70). All the aforementioned devices perform a similar function, i.e. helping the speaker to bring out new or important information in the flow of speech. If we now turn to speech tempo changes in Modern Irish dialects, here it is pausing that immediately comes to the fore. Although there are cases where pauses can be described as a hesitation phenomenon only, in a number of instances their use is closely connected with the information status, new data being enhanced and highlighted by the pause. Moreover, pauses not only distinguish important parts of an utterance from those performing background, or secondary, function in speech, but also slow down the overall speech tempo. This paper is an outcome of an investigation conducted on the material of spontaneous speech samples in Irish, either collected during field work in Connemara region or extracted from radio and TV programmes, which were then analysed descriptively with the help of Praat. This enabled us to measure articulation rate and the duration of pauses as well as to define their boundaries more precisely. During the analysis the subject of conversation and information type were being taken into account as well, which resulted in a number of preliminary conclusions that may present some interest. Thus, not only did pausing mark new information, but there also appeared to be a tendency to increase the overall speech tempo when various clichés or frequently used phrases were introduced. REFERENCES: Tomlin, R.S. et al, Discourse Semantics, in Discourse as structure and process (ed. T.A. van Dijk), 63-111. London, 1997. Trouvain, J., Tempo Variation in Speech Production. Saarbrücken, 2003.