Intonation in speech perception
Intonation plays a central role in human communication, since it provides immediate cues that facilitate word recognition in speech comprehension, but it also provides crucial cues to the meaning of utterances and their role in the wider discourse context. Research in second language learning of intonational properties as well as aphasic speech, speech synthesis and automatic speech recognition has confirmed that when the intonation is ‘wrong’, communication tends to break down.
Unfortunately, intonation is quite elusive from a modelling perspective: It is continuous in nature, and it is signalled by multiple interacting phonetic cues which simultaneously map to different linguistic as well as non-linguistic functions.
In this paper, I will briefly review what we know about the ‘substance’ of intonation, how we can measure and model it, and what its main functional roles in language comprehension are. My main objective will be to argue that intonation has a crucial role to play in speech perception more generally, but also more specifically in speech recognition in adverse listening conditions.