Probabilistic relation between co-speech gestures, pitch accents and information status

Suyeon Im, Stefan Baumann


This study investigates the occurrence of co-speech gestures as a function of prosodic prominence (pitch accents) and discourse meaning (information status) in a clear and engaging speech style. Among several types of co-speech gestures, we examine non-referential gestures, which are claimed to be prosodic in nature (Shattuck-Hufnagel & Ren 2018). In particular, we want to find out to what extent these gestures co-occur with specific accent types and whether they are used to encode referential, lexical, or contrastive information. Our results show that the occurrence of gestures was highest for L+H*, followed by H*, !H*, and unaccented words. Gestures were accompanied by L* only in continuations. Also, co-speech gestures were more likely to occur with new or accessible, and especially contrastive, information than with given information. The patterns differed between the referential and lexical level of information status, though. In general, this study suggests that co-speech gestures contribute to the probabilistic encoding of a word’s information status in conjunction with pitch accents.


co-speech gestures; prosody; pitch accents; information status; RefLex Scheme; clear speech

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