Project 1 for the description and documentation of imitative prosody

Note for readers, reviewers of articles and/or abstracts: these pages are currently being designed and will be supplied with content in the coming days and weeks. To access some of the audio files in the meantime, you can navigate to the following Google Drive folder. Note to ILL-13 reviewers: I’m aware of my terminological error on the term “polyseme” in the article.

july 2023: short overview of the project.

French version of the project.

Link to Project 2: imitative prosody workshops at school (planned for 2023-24 in schools in Brittany. Production experiments, theoretical vulgarization [imitative prosody as facilitating access to the basics of semantics], and a social project to develop students’ potential through voice and textual imagination [similar to theatrical workshops]).

Non-detailed plan of Project 1:

– [I]. Morphosemanticism.

– II]. Paradigmatic onomasiology.

– [III]. Syntagmatic onomasiology.

– [IV]. Paradigmatic semasiology.

– [V.]. Syntagmatic semasiology.

– VI]. Complete analyses of pieces of complex utterances. Stylistic perspective.

– Glossary [eventually, users will be able to display the definition of a metalinguistic term by dragging the cursor over it, if this option exists in WordPress].

– General bibliography. Discography.

We approach the study of imitative prosody along six axes. The logic at work is to address imitative prosody neither separately from prosody in general, nor from discourse relations in a particular utterance, and secondly to import methods from general semantics and semiotics for the study of our object. We have designed these explanatory categories and sub-categories on the one hand because they enable us to set out well-defined mechanisms for the semantic and morphological phenomena of prosody, particularly imitative prosody, and on the other hand to incorporate as many empirical data as possible (and, by arranging these examples, to propose new sub-ordinate categories). One of our aims is thus to untangle our object, which interweaves mechanisms of motivation and meaning that are sometimes very close to one another. Finally, if we wish to bring our object fully into the realm of theoretical linguistics, it is also to remain open (albeit systematic) about the horizons towards which the points of view adopted lead. In some cases, our theoretical categories are more advanced than our collected empirical data, and one of our aims is also to regularly supply the various sub-categories with examples (and figures and explanations).

At this stage, the corpus is predominantly made up of sound samples of French poetic declamation performed by leading actors in the 1950s-1960s. Discography. We will add examples of English poetic declamation, more practical for the reader-listener, and operating largely according to the same motivational regimes. Problems of translation and annotation of the excerpt text, problems of visual presentation and annotation of the sound signal or stylizations of the sound signal, and problems of thresholds for distinguishing values (and possible quantifications), will be dealt with progressively (this is a long job, given the quantity of examples, and the complexity of the methodological solutions to be adopted. Several approaches will be tested concurrently, then an explanatory section of method will be progressively developed, and finally a homogeneous method will be deployed).

[I]. Morphosemanticism.

Motivational or arbitrary relationships for prosody in general, and imitative prosody in particular. It should be noted that, while not the main focus of this report, these subsections pose the delicate problem of pairing diachrony and synchrony.

[I.1.]. Form-meaning indexicality for some prosodic signs. We first extend Gussenhoven’s analysis of the biological codes of prosody in several ways: on the one hand, by considering prosodic signifiers comprehensively (and not just melody); on the other hand, by considering these relations of meaning as pertaining to only certain parts of the definitions of prosodic signs (and the motivation can then be that of entire prosodic paradigms : We also distinguish between what is indexical and what is iconic in terms of motivation (see below). Similarly, we employ the work of the Scherer school to analyze prosodic emotions. Finally, indexicality as concomitance, a necessary condition for isotopic relations in general, and imitative relations in particular, between verbal and prosodic signs, is dealt with in the syntagmalogy sections.

[I.2.]. Imagic iconicity. Sign-internal vs. Sign-external. Parts of the meaning of a sign resembling its form through largely non-contextual considerations (through morphosemantic connections predominant in interpretation) vs. parts of the meaning of a sign resembling its form as a result of largely contextual considerations (through more latent morphosemantic connections, requiring isotopy to be interpreted).

– [I.3]. Diagrammatic iconicity. For our particular purpose, we are presenting equative, privative, scalar and polar diagrams.

[I.4] Synthesis: indexicality + multitudes of iconicity types: various questions and partial solutions emerge, such as the distribution of their respective roles (different semantic features), difference of viewpoints (e.g. sign scale, paradigm scale; or diachronic vs. synchronic), accumulative effect in the motivation?

[II.] Paradigmatic onomasiology.

Concepts or semantic features organized into signs, or rather categories of signs, potentially available in linguistic competence. We classify prosodic signs in general, and prosodic signs in particular, according to different levels of paradigmatic generality. These levels are taken from Rastier (1987), who designed them for the paradigms of verbal signs (and for the analysis of the cohesion of an utterance by isotopy). These levels are called dimensions (major grammatical or modal dimensions), domains (thematic fields) and taxemes (levels of minimal interdefinition of signs: those that appear immediately commutable, and are coded using distinctive semantic features within the paradigm).

– [II.1]. The various prosodic taxemes: prosodic categories as they are generally listed (for French), without looking, in this first stage, at more complex paradigmatic organizations (prosodic signs classified in different taxemes but sharing certain features of meaning, and possibly features of expression).

– [II.2]. Prosodic signs belonging to the same dimension. After a typology of verbal dimensions (which all general linguistics or morphosyntax makes explicit in its own way), we propose a typology of prosodic dimensions. Prosodic signs that are minimally interdefined in different taxemes can nevertheless be classified in the same dimension (e.g. /+intense/). The fact that prosodic signs are motivated by biological codes (cf. above) means that this isosemy (part of the semantic features in common) can be correlated with an isophony (part of the features, if not phonological, at least phonetic [according to certain allomorphs] in common).

– [II.3]. Domain paradigms: verbal (thematic) and prosodic (thematic in a function of imitation of the verbal meaning). The inherent or contextual nature of the semantic features of signs classified in domains, their relationship to morphosemantics, and the actualization of the same sign, or even signs of the same taxemes, in several domains or dimensions are discussed in other sections.

– [II.4. Movement domain: typology of 6 prosodic signs that can be actualized in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.5. Power domain: typology of 5 prosodic signs that can be actualized in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.6]. Quantity domain: typology of 2 prosodic signs that can be actualized in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.7]. Size domain: typology of 4 prosodic signs that can be updated in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.8]. Sonority domain: typology of 2 prosodic signs that can be updated in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.9]. Presence domain: typology of 2 prosodic signs that can be updated in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.10.]. Resistance domain: typology of 2 actualizable prosodic signs in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.11.]. Spatial position domain: typology of 5 prosodic signs that can be actualized in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.13.]. Temporality domain: we currently assume only one prosodic sign that can be actualized in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.14.]. Valence domain (= positive/negative): typology of 2 prosodic signs that can be actualized in this domain. Corpus of examples.

– [II.15.]. Comparison with other semiosis based on sound imitation, which can integrate signs into the same semantic domains (or rather conceptual domains, strictly speaking, since they are different codes): programmatic music, film soundtracks, segmental sound symbolism. Analogies with sign language.

[III]. Syntagmatic onomasiology.

Prosodic signs can form isotopic relationships with each other, and with verbal signs, i.e. they can actualize identical semantic features on either side to form chains of meaning. For our application, these include both domain semantic features and specific semantic features.

[III.1].  Imitative connection defined as opposed to metaphorical connection (based on levels of relations between semantic features).

[III.2]. Inherence vs. contextual afference in the actualization of isotopic semantic features (according to the different types of semantic features, for both the imitated verbal sign and the imitating prosodic sign).

[III.3]. Tension between the imitation and intensification functions, for prosodic and verbal content in an isotopic relation. The prosodic sign may strongly resemble the verbal sign, more in order to reinforce the latter’s (grammatical or modal) value (i.e. intensively modify it), or on the contrary, more in order to imitate it (the problem of the stereotypical image is reminiscent of nature epithets, defined by Delente as “indices of generality” rather than intensification). The interpretation of an occurrence’s place on this continuum between these two extremes can be approached by taking into account the problems of prosodic allomorphs (more or less exaggerated), the incidence regime of the verbal sign in question (noun, adjective), and, for the noun, its determination.

[III.4.]. Prosodic intervention to actualize potential segmental phonosymbolism. Prosody can reveal these segmental values by emphasizing them, or by actualizing the same imitative concept itself.

[IV]. Paradigmatic semasiology.

We propose that various prosodic signs function as polysemes. In other words, for a given semantic profile of a prosodic polysemous sign (same form [with the allomorph problem] and part of the meaning in common with the other members of the polyseme), this profile can be similar to the others (through the same specific semantic feature) and differentiated from them by the context, by being included in different domains (imitative thematic function) and/or different dimensions (modal and grammatical function). It should be noted that the grouping of values under a single polyseme is subject to the question of expressive variants. If we observe that different related profiles of the sign have few shared allomorphs, it is preferable to consider them as different signs. In this way, the typology will be progressively strengthened by more phonetically refined presentations of the prosodic allomorphs at work, even if it means deprecating a given profile of the polyseme (i.e. by considering it as another sign). This section lists not only the different meanings of the same polyseme, but also cases of homophony of some of the polyseme’s allomorphs with other signs.

– [IV.1]. Semasiological analysis of amplifying emphasis. Corpus of examples.

– [IV.3]. Semasiological analysis of attenuating emphasis. Corpus of examples.

– [IV.4]. Semasiological analysis of the strong arousal prosodem. Corpus of examples.

– [IV.5]. Semasiological analysis of weak arousal prosodemes. Corpus of examples.

– [IV.6]. Semasiological analysis of the unrolling-extension prosodem. Corpus of examples.

– [IV.7]. Semasiological analysis of the separation prosodem. Sample corpus.

– [IV.7]. Semasiological analysis of the positive valence prosodem. Corpus of examples.

– [IV.7]. Semasiological analysis of negative valence prosodemes. Corpus of examples.

– [IV.8]. Possible confusion of certain homophonic allomorphs: summary.

– [IV.9]. The mechanism for shifting from dimension to domain values. Deductive opening to marginal imitative values.

– [IV.10]. Dictionnary project: identification of prosodically imitable semantic profiles in the lexicon of the French language, for each of its various entries. This inventory will target the most common words in the lexicon (including grammemes), the most typical words for a particular imitative value, and finally words that have the particularity of being able to be associated with several imitative profiles.

[V.]. Syntagmatic semasiology.

– [V.1]. Syntagmatic competition between polysemous or homophonic prosodic values. Under what conditions do we go from semantic potential that can be actualized in the signifier to actualized value? Case study.

– [V.2]. Amalgam in the interpretation of several polysemous or homophonic prosodic values. Case study.

– [V.3]. Amalgam in the interpretation of several semantic profiles of the verbal sign, as captured by imitative prosody. Case study.

– this must lead to questions about the difference between what is semantically apprehended and what is perceptually imagined as an imitative impression; and also questions about the fact that not all the values that the syntagmatic context makes potentially interpretable are interpreted by a given receiver.

[VI]. Complete analyses of fragments of complex utterances (Synthesis of the analysis method. Possible application: (phono)literary stylistics of our corpus of poetic declamation).

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