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Research in recent years has convincingly shown the importance in informal speech of formulaic sequences (FSs), or pre-fabricated linguistic segments. Work being undertaken at the Technological University Dublin (DIT) aims to extend research into FSs by including the aspect of prosody. In this presentation we outline the construction of a novel speech corpus at DIT, based on intelligent access to natural dialogue recorded at a high audio quality. Search strings can be examined in their phonetic and dialogic context, and what Cauldwell called the ‘acoustic blur of speech’ made accessible to learner and researcher alike by means of DIT’s slow-down technology. This learning and research asset allows informal speech to be studied as a dynamic phenomenon rather than via the static record of transcription. The presenters will discuss initial findings of the effectiveness of DIT’s slow-down technology with Chinese learners of English, specifically in the area of formulaic sequences. We examine the role of technology in bridging the intonational gap between Mandarin prosody, which is mainly concerned with lexical demarcation, and English prosody, which works in larger units. We also demonstrate the effect of speed of delivery and pitch range on FSs as they are spoken, and how their communicative function changes with lower speech rates and increased tonal range. The presentation will round off by locating the DIT corpus in the context of existing corpora and its relevance to language learners, linguistic researchers and materials developers.
Campbell, D., Wang, Y. & McDonnell, C. (2008) FS ≠ FS (Formulaicity and Prosody). Proceedings of the 41st BAAL 2008 Conference, Swansea, UK. September.