Using conversation analysis to improve hypothesis formation in the study of human interaction

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Adopting an eyetracking paradigm, we investigated the role of H*L, L*HL, L*H, H*LH, and deaccentuation at the intonational phrase-final position in online processing of information status in British English in natural speech. The role of H*L, L*H and deaccentuation was also examined in diphone- synthetic speech. It was found that H*L and L*HL create a strong bias to- wards newness, whereas L*H, like deaccentuation, creates a strong bias to- wards givenness. In synthetic speech, the same effect was found for H*L, L*H and deaccentuation, but it was delayed. The delay may not be caused entirely by the difference in the segmental quality between synthetic and natural speech. The pitch accent H*LH, however, appears to bias participants’ interpretation to the target word, independent of its information status. This finding was ex- plained in the light of the effect of durational information at the segmental level on word recognition.