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Usages and Advantages of Categorical Phonetic Transcription of Prosody: Toward the development of an IPrA (International Prosodic Alphabet)


Organised by Sun-Ah Jun (UCLA) and Pilar Prieto (Univ. of Pompeu Fabra)

This Workshop, a satellite meeting of SP2018, is the second workshop on the development of an IPrA (International Prosodic Alphabet). The goal of this workshop is to inform prosody researchers what are the practical usages and advantages of using categorical phonetic transcription of prosody (in addition to using the phonological tone symbols for ToBI). This is a necessary step before discussing what intonational symbols and conventions to have in order to establish an International Prosodic Alphabet (IPrA). The idea of developing an IPrA was first discussed at the satellite meeting of the ICPhS (International Congress of Phonetic Sciences) at Glasgow in 2015, organized by Sun-Ah Jun, Pilar Prieto and José Hualde. For detailed information, visit

A brief background of ToBI and IPrA is as follows. Based on the Autosegmental-Metrical (AM) model of Intonational Phonology (Bruce 1977, Pierrehumbert 1980, Beckman & Pierrehumbert 1986, Ladd 1996/2008), a phonological transcription system known as ToBI (Tones and Break Indices) was created for English in 1994 as a tool for annotating phonological properties of intonation as well as for communicating one’s observation of the signal to the larger community in a common language (Beckman et al. 2005). Since then, the ToBI framework has been applied to approximately fifty typologically various languages. Tone symbols used in ToBI are supposed to represent distinctive underlying tones, but since ToBI is also a tool to annotate one’s observations of the pitch contour, the tone symbols in ToBI have been used to represent a mixture of underlying and surface tones. This made the distinction between the ToBI and the AM model of intonational phonology blurred, and became source of confusion among ToBI labelers. In addition, since tone labels used in each ToBI system are language specific, the labels for the same f0 contour are often different across ToBI systems. This made it hard for researchers to determine the phonological status of intonational tone symbols used in different ToBI systems. One way to improve this situation is to have tonal symbols at two levels -- one for transcribing intonation at the surface but still categorical level and the other at the underlying level. The former type is the categorical or broad phonetic transcription of prosody, and a set of symbols used for this type is called an IPrA (International Prosodic Alphabet). Just as with the IPA symbols, the initial proposal of IPrA symbols represents a point of departure for intonational researchers and needs to be tested for various typologically different languages.

The Workshop will include eight invited presentations on topics ranging from the theoretical issues to more practical ones such as the intonational transcription of under-described languages and L2 and automatic intonational transcription, and discuss the potential advantages of using IPrA in a variety of languages. We hope that this Workshop will convince researchers of the necessity to use categorical phonetic tonal symbols and join to build a more established version of the IPrA symbols and conventions.

Date: June 14, 2018 (Thursday)

Place: TBA


14:30-15:50: Introduction (Sun-Ah Jun & Pilar Prieto)

1. Theoretical issues on labeling surface intonation contours across languages

14:50-15:10: Pilar Prieto (ICREA, Dept. of Translation & Lang. Sciences, Univ. of Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona) and Sun-Ah Jun (Dept. of Linguistics, UCLA)

"Why do we need two levels of prosodic transcription?: Supporting the IPrA (International Prosodic Alphabet) proposal"

15:10-15:30: Martine Grice (Institute of Linguistics, Univ. of Köln)

“Incorporating continuity in prosodic annotation”

2. Transcribing intonation of various dialects of the same language

15:30-15:50: Sam Hellmuth (Dept. of Language and Linguistic Science, Univ. of York, UK)

“Transcribing the intonation of typologically different dialects of the same language: the case of Arabic”

15:50-16:10: Frank Kügler (Department of Linguistics, Potsdam University, Germany)

“Tonal categories in prosodic annotation of dialectal variation”

3. Transcribing intonation of a new language from scratch

16:10-16:30: Andrea Peskova (Institute for Romance and Latin Studies, Univ. of Osnabrück, Germany), Marzena Zygis (Leibniz-Centre General Linguistics & Humboldt University, Berlin), and Marek Jaskula (Westpomeranian University of Technology, Szczecin, Poland)

“Differences and similarities in the intonation systems of Czech and Polish”

16:30-17:00: Break

4. Transcribing intonation of second language (L2) speakers 

17:00-17:20: Sun-Ah Jun (Dept of Linguistics, UCLA), Heeju Lee (Dept. of Asian Lg. Cultures, UCLA) and JyEun Son (Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese, UCLA)

“Mixing L1 and L2 intonation: L1 Korean in L2 English and L2 Spanish”

5. Using categorical phonetic tonal symbols for L2 education

17:20-17:40: Jacques Koreman (Dept of Lang & Lit, Norwegian Univ. of Science & Technology)

“A wish list for multilingual intonation training”

6. Using categorical phonetic transcription in automatic ToBI transcription

17:40-18:00: David Escudero (Dept. of Informatics, Universidad de Valladolid, Spain)

“Characterizing speaking style with automatic prosodic labels, applications in computer assisted pronunciation training”

18:00-18:30: General Discussion

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