Presentations (Communicative Events)

The Effect of Contour Type and Epistemic Modality on the Assessment of Speaker Certainty

Gravano, Agustin; Benus, Stefan; Hirschberg, Julia Bell; German, Elisa Sneed; Ward, Gregory

In an empirical study participants were asked to rate the perceived degree of certainty of utterances that contained either the modal would or main verb be (e.g. That would be me vs. That’s me), and which were also variously produced with one of three intonational contours (downstepped, declarative, and yes-no question). We found that both downstepped contour and epistemic would made a significant and independent contribution to the assessment of speaker certainty. That is, participants rated utterances with the downstepped contour as most certain, followed by those with the declarative contour, while the yes-no question contour was perceived as highly uncertain. Similarly, participants rated speakers' responses with epistemic would as significantly more certain than those without it.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Computer Science
Speech Prosody 2008
Published Here
August 5, 2013


Presentation Powerpoint slides are available at