Phonetic duration of nouns depends on de-lexicalized syntactic distributions: Evidence from naturally occurring conversation

AbstractWe explore whether de-lexicalized syntactic information impacts the phonetic duration of nouns. The motivating expectation is that nouns that carry more syntactic information will be more difficult to produce in situ, leading to longer durations. We approach this question from two perspectives: pure diversity of a noun's distribution across its available syntactic relations, and distance of this distribution from the average distribution of nouns in the language at large. The former measure is designed to capture the interconnectivity between the lexical and syntactic tiers of linguistic representation. The latter measure targets how well an individual noun fits the behavior expected for the noun class. We find that durations are sensitive to both measures in complementary fashion: nouns with more diverse syntactic distributions are produced with longer durations, and nouns that have distinctive (non-prototypical) distributions have shorter durations.

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