Queclaratives in Xhosa : an acoustic and perceptual analysis

Jones, Catherine Jacquelynn Julia (2001-03)

Thesis (PhD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2001.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Key words: acoustic speech analysis, speech synthesis, speech perception, copulative queclarative, linguistics, psycho linguistics, human language technology This study investigates the notion of interrogativity in Xhosa as expressed in the form of Queclaratives. Queclaratives, or statements which are question-like in function, have been studied in many languages of the world. Unfortunately with regard to the Bantu languages, studies relating to interrogativity in general have largely been impressionistic in nature. This research comprised two aspects of analysis. These included an acoustic and a perceptual analysis of data. The reason for this approach is that, without this combination the results could have been considered to be suspect and lacking in authenticity. The acoustic analysis was conducted on 858 words in statement and queclarative pairs. Significant parameters were extracted and these were then statistically analyzed. The results revealed that duration on the penultimate vowel, pitch on the penultimate vowel and the overall raised pitch of queclaratives as opposed to statements were indeed the acoustically significant parameters differentiating statements from queclaratives. However as is well known, there is no one-to-one relationship between the acoustic signal and its perception and, therefore, it is imperative that such findings also be perceptually tested. The perceptual testing of these parameters was conducted in an attempt to elicit whether they were perceptually significant and also at what point in the utterance listeners could differentiate between queclaratives and statements. The next progression was the compilation of carefully designed perception tests on the acoustically significant parameters. Two experiments were compiled using stimuli that were manipulations of the original signal of one of the selected informant's utterances. These tests were administered on multimedia computers in the Language Laboratory at the University of Stellenbosch using 64 subjects for the first experiment and 63 for the second. The results of the perception tests showed that duration and pitch on the penultimate syllable are perceptually highly significant in differentiating statements from queclaratives. However the results also indicated very early recognition of the different forms with minimal speech segments from which the penultimate vowels were absent altogether. This then suggests that the perceptual judgements made earlier in the utterance may be either reinforced or overridden by the duration and pitch on the penultimate vowel. These results have assisted in the validation of some impressionistic claims made within the Bantu and other languages, while refuting others. However, as this corpus of data has included research on copulative queclaratives, it appeals for further research on this subject using any other linguistic markers. The results have also been evaluated in terms of their possible contribution to the related disciplines of psycholinguistics, linguistics and human language technologies. In so doing, the thesis makes an urgent appeal to researchers to pursue this experimental approach to language research. Another appeal is made for an awareness campaign as to the importance of this approach in harnessing the power of language for the development of language and society as a whole. The fertility of the South African society lies in its richness of multilingualism and the necessity for the improvement of the dissemination of information to all people of all languages and the improvement of communication between people in general, including those less fortunate in terms of literacy skills.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Sleutelwoorde: akoestiese spraakanalise, spraaksintese, spraakpersepsie, kopulatiewe stelvraag, linguistiek, psigolinguistiek, taal-en-spraaktegnologie In hierdie projek word die aard van vraagstelling in Xhosa ondersoek met betrekking tot die stelvraag-vorm. Stelvrae, of stellings wat ook as vrae kan funksioneer, is reeds bestudeer vir heelwat wêreldtale. Oor die algemeen was studies oor vraagstelling in die Afrikatale egter grootliks impressionisties van aard. Hierdie navorsingsprojek het uit twee analisekomponente bestaan, naamlik 'n akoestiese analise van die data en 'n reeks persepsueie eksperimente. Sonder die kombinasie van die twee tipes analise sou die resultate van die navorsing minder kredietwaardig gewees het. Die akoestiese analise is gedoen op 858 woordpare bestaande uit stellings en stelvrae. Die data is statisties ontleed en die relevante parameters is onttrek. Die resultate het daarop gedui dat die duur en toonhoogte van die voorlaaste vokaal sowel as die register van die hele woord belangrike parameters is in die onderskeid tussen stellings en stelvrae. Aangesien dit wel bekend is dat daar nie 'n een-tot-een verwantskap tussen die akoestiese klanksein en die persepsie daarvan is nie, is dit noodsaaklik om ook 'n persepsueie eksperiment uit te voer. Die persepsueie toetse is so opgestel dat bepaal kon word watter akoestiese parameters ook persepsueel relevant is en om die vroegste sillabie te vind waar luisteraars reeds die onderskeid tussen die twee vorme kan maak. Die volgende stap was om stimuli vir die persepsietoetse op te stel wat inderdaad bogenoemde resultate sou lewer. Stimuli is geskep deur die spraakdata van een spreker te manipuleer. Die persepsietoetse is toe uitgevoer op multimedia-rekenaars in die Taallaboratorium van die Universiteit van Stellenbosch. Die resultate van die persepsietoetse het gewys dat die duur en toonhoogte van die voorlaaste sillabe ook persepsueel belangrik is in die ondersekeid tussen die verskillende vorme. Dit was ook duidelik dat proefpersone die vorme van mekaar kon onderskei met minimale hoeveelhede inligting waar die voorlaaste en laaste sillabes heeltemal afwesig was. Dit dui daarop dat luisteraars persepsuele besluite baie vroeg in die woord neem, maar dat hierdie besluite óf versterk óf omgekeer kan word deur die duur en toonhoogte van die voorlaaste sillabe. Die resultate van die navorsing het sekere impressionistiese stellings ten opsigte van Afrikatale ondersteun terwyl ander stellings as foutief bewys is. Een van die belangrike bevindings was dat die impressionistiese standpunt dat stellings 'n dalende intonasiekontoer en vrae 'n stygende intonasiekontoer tydens die afloop van die uiting het, 'n oorvereenvondiging is. Hierdie werk is gedoen op enkelwoord-kopulatief stelvrae en leen dit daartoe om uitgebrei te word na frases en sinne vir toekomstige navorsmg. Verder is die navorsingsresultate in verband gebring met verwante dissiplines soos psigolinguistiek, linguistiek en taal- en spraaktegnologie. 'n Pleidooi is gelewer vir 'n bewusmakingsveldtog om die belangrikheid van hierdie tipe navorsing te beklemtoon om die potensiaal van taal te benut vir die ontwikkeling van Suider-Afrikaanse tale en gemeenskappe. Die rykheid van ons gemeenskap lê in die veeltaligheid daarvan en bied besondere uitdagings om die verspreiding van inligting na alle mense van alle tale te verbeter en om die kommunikasie tussen mense in die algemeen, maar ook spesifiek vir diegene met laer vlakke van geletterdheid.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52426
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