An Empirical Analysis of the Correlation of Syntax and Prosody

The relation of syntax and prosody (the syntax-prosody interface) has been an active area of research, mostly in linguistics and typically studied under controlled conditions. More recently, prosody has also been successfully used in the data-based training of syntax parsers. However, there is a gap between the controlled and detailed study of the individual effects between syntax and prosody and the large-scale application of prosody in syntactic parsing with only a shallow analysis of the respective influences. In this paper, we close the gap by investigating the significance of correlations of prosodic realization with specific syntactic functions using linear mixed effects models in a very large corpus of read-out German encyclopedic texts. Using this corpus, we are able to analyze prosodic structuring performed by a diverse set of speakers while they try to optimize factual content delivery. After normalization by speaker, we obtain significant effects, e.g. confirming that the subject function, as compared to the object function, has a positive effect on pitch and duration of a word, but a negative effect on loudness.

We enriched the SWC annotations with syntax and prosody information. These data will be available soon. You can already download the extracted data in a format suitable for R alongside with the R script which generates the data for our main results table:

The paper: