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Prosody

 

   What does prosody mean?

            How is the word even pronounced?

                      How can I know if I have it?

                               If I don't have it, how can I get it?

                                         What does it mean to say that something is prosodic?

 

For non-linguists among us, the concept of prosody can be vague, confusing, or foreign.  We're pretty sure we could ask an intelligent question about it, if we only knew what meant.

Here, we will try to allow the true warm-and-fuzzy nature of the perceived as thorny prosody to shine through. Fire-up the tea kettle and say hello to your new best friend.

 


 

Click to go to Amazon page for "Prosodic Markers and Utterance Boundaries in ASL"

Published June 2009

PROSODIC MARKERS
AND UTTERANCE BOUNDARIES
Brenda Nicodemus

This, the fifth volume in the Studies in Interpretation series, discusses the prosodic features of spoken and signed languages, and reports the findings of groundbreaking research on prosodic markers in ASL interpretation.

Findings show that interpreters produce an average of seven prosodic markers at each boundary point. The markers are produced both sequentially and simultaneously and under conditions of highly precise timing. Further, the results suggest that the type of prosodic markers used by interpreters are both systematic and stylistic.

 


PRONUNCIATION:

PRAHS-uh-dee is correct.  Neither pro-SAH-dee, nor PROHZ-uh-dee is correct.


DEFINITION:

(noun) The systematic structure of a spoken or signed utterance.

FUNCTION:

The skillful use of prosody:

   - provides cues about the goals of a speaker (to persuade, teach, inquire, entertain, etc.);
   - signals conversational turn-taking;
   - conveys urgency and intensity, mood, and tone;
   - arranges utterances in a way that supports meaning and clarity (syntax)
   - chunks information (for organization, ease of memory, and understanding); and
   - provides flow and rhythm.


In the absence of prosody (or in the presence of inconsistent or misleading prosody), we are left wondering what a speaker's intent is.  

While we may have understood his or her signs or words, we may feel confused about whether, for example, the speaker was encouraging us toward, or discouraging us from, taking a particular action.  

Or, while we may have understood what happened during a speaker's recent vacation, we may not feel clear about whether s/he enjoyed it, or didn't. 

While attending a science lecture on "Domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species," it is a presenter's prosodic skill that enables us to make sense of the information presented and its hierarchical structure.  Vocal intensity (e.g.: loudness) and rhythmic sentence structure are examples of how we organize information prosodically.

When a speaker wishes to retain the floor, or to surrender the floor to someone else (this is called turn-taking), s/he signals this intent prosodically.  It is through the speaker's prosodic proficiency that we know it is either expected that we take our turn now, or hold our remarks until the speaker signals that s/he is opening the floor to others.

Urgency or intensity may be conveyed prosodically through, for example, communication speed, or non-manual marker (body shift, facial expression, mouth morpheme).

 

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This page was edited: 09/15/2009
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