Intonational Bestiary

The intonational bestiary is a current project in our lab on intonational tunes that tries to establish the intonational tunes of English (and, in the long run, maybe of some other languages). The approach we take is to collect data in dialogues that are relatively controlled with respect to the intentions of the characters involved, and to see which intonational tunes speakers (who are not aware that the experiment is about intonation) actually use to convey these intentions.

The goal is to assemble mini-corpora of utterances collected in controlled contexts, which are annotated in various ways with respect to their intonational tunes. They are also normed in perception experiments by naive listeners who rate their naturalness in different contexts. These mini-corpora can then become a point of reference for future studies. They can also be a testing ground for different types of analyses of intonational tunes.

The first such mini-corpus can be explored here:

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 9.38.20 PM

See the associated Proceedings paper here:

Goodhue, Dan, Harrison, Lyana, Su, Y. T. Clementine, and Wagner, Michael (2016). Toward a bestiary of English intonational tunes. In Hammerly, C. and Prickett, B., editors, Proceedings of the 46th Conference of the North Eastern Linguistic Society (NELS), Concordia University, pages 311–320. [paper] [data] [items.]

On the webpage, you can select and deselect certain tunes, and click on individual pitch tracks to listen to the file. The tracks were smoothed and normalized in ways that will be described in more detail in the upcoming NELS proceedings paper.

In our first annotations, we decided to treat tunes as holistic contours, rather than treating them as decomposable into meaningful parts, but of course there are diverging opinions on what the appropriate level of analysis is. Are tunes like sentences with meaningful phonological pieces that compose an overall meaning? Or are they like mono-morphemic words, whose phonological components are not themselves meaningful? This is one of the questions we hope to make progress on by collecting this data.

The dialogues with stage directions are posted here.

If you would like to get access to the data and maybe even provide your own annotation, contact us at