Deniz Özyıldız: Intonation and Meaning

Natural language utterances, whether they be spoken or signed, contain prosodic
structure. This structure is expressed by suprasegmental features, like
variations in pitch, loudness and duration. One could imagine a world in which
utterances come with these features simply because we use, e.g., lungs and a
vocal tract to say things, and that their variation is arbitrary. We instead
live in a world where prosody is structured, and where this structure interacts
with syntactic structure on the one hand, and semantic and pragmatic
interpretation on the other.

(1) a. Three mathematicians in ten / derive a lemma.
b. Three mathematicians / intend to rival Emma.

One among many striking examples of this is the pair in (1), from Pierrehumbert
(1980), where the position of a break (/) disambiguates a pair of segmentally
identical sentences, arguably because it indicates what material should be
parsed as the subject Noun Phrase, which leads to a difference in structure and
interpretation further down the line.

This course is an introduction to the study of prosody and intonation in the way
that these interact with syntax, semantics and pragmatics, and to the formal
methods that are commonly used to model these phenomena, like annotation
techniques, constraint based grammars and alternative semantics.