Integrating the Structures of Information and Discourse: a cross-linguistic approach

Project Details

Layman's description

We investigate how the three factors word order, prosodic type and speech genre interact with information- and discourse structure. The languages we work with are Swedish, German, Russian, Mongolian, Japanese, Turkish, Hungarian, Basque, Scottish Gaelic, a Mon-Khmer language Kammu, and Austronesian languages Seediq, Puyuma, Bunun and Tagalog. For recordings, we use pictures and video stimuli.

The main goal of human communication is to share information with each other. This is achieved in a structured way and as it has a common cognitive ground we find systematic similarities between languages. However, grammar imposes restrictions on the possible expression of information flow. Thus, we find language dependent differences: some languages express information structure primarily by word order (like Basque), and other languages (like Russian) by intonation. Does this variation correlate with other facts about the languages involved? Can we, based on knowledge about the syntax or prosody of a language, make any predictions as to how it will express information structure?
The main research question in this project is to identify covariation patterns between syntactic, morphological and prosodic facts in the expression of information and discourse structures.
The central purpose of this project is to lay the groundwork for an experimental and descriptive typology of discourse. This will be investigated by a systematic analysis of spoken discourse data from a controlled group of genetically, typologically and geographically diverse languages. The main principle is to accomplish an integrated description of information structure in spoken discourse by referring to syntax, morphology and prosody. The main innovation of this project will be to establish a typology of the grammar of information structure based on language in its natural, interactive use.
Effective start/end date2013/01/012015/12/31