Polynomial modeling of child and adult intonation in german spontaneous speech

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In a data set of 291 spontaneous utterances from German 5-year-olds, 7-year-olds and adults, nuclear pitch contours were labeled manually using the GToBI annotation system. Ten different contour types were identified.The fundamental frequency (F0) of these contours was modeled using third-order orthogonal polynomials, following an approach similar to the one Grabe, Kochanski, and Coleman (2007) used for English. Statistical analyses showed that all but one contour pair differed significantly from each other in at least one of the four coefficients. This demonstrates that polynomial modeling can provide quantitative empirical support for phonological labels in unscripted speech, and for languages other than English. Furthermore, polynomial expressions can be used to derive the alignment of tonal targets relative to the syllable structure, making polynomial modeling more accessible to the phonological research community. Finally, within-contour comparisons of the three age groups showed that for children, the magnitude of the higher coefficients is lower, suggesting that they are not yet able to modulate their pitch as fast as adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-223
Number of pages25
JournalLanguage and Speech
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • children
  • German
  • intonation
  • polynomial modeling
  • tonal alignment


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