Prosodic encoding of information structure in Mandarin Chinese: Evidence from picture description task

Author(s): Yifei Bi, Lesya Y. Ganushchak, Agnieszka E. Konopka, Guiqin Ren, Xue Sui and Yiya Chen


This study investigates the extent to which prosodic cues are employed during online sentence production to distinguish three different notions of information structure (informational focus, corrective focus, and givenness) at two sentential focus locations (i.e. the subject and object positions). Participants were asked to describe pictures. The information status of the subject and object characters was manipulated in the discourse preceding the presentation of each picture. Acoustic data (including duration, F0, and intensity) from 65 participants were analysed. Results showed consistent acoustic differences between corrective focus and givenness, confirming the findings from reading and semi-controlled production tasks. Contrary to previous studies, our results showed no durational and F0 differences between informational focus and givenness, and no differences in intensity range between informational focus and corrective focus. Moreover, our results showed that the sentential focus locations of the target word also had an impact on the prosodic encoding of information structure in natural utterance production.