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Prof. Dr. Bettina Braun
Fachbereich Sprachwissenschaft
Universität Konstanz

A new window on intonational form and function

Research project funded by the German Reserach Council (DFG) within the priority program Phonological and phonetic competence: between grammar, signal processing, and neural activity. Funding period: April 2010-December 2012.

Project summary

This research project applies new psycholinguistic methods to the study of intonational form and function. Only recently, some of these methods (e.g., eye tracking, cross-modal priming) have been successfully employed to investigate intonational processing on-line. Therefore, intonational comprehension research is not restricted anymore to probe for utterance interpretation at the end of utterances when all information is available, but can finally access the time course of integrating intonational information as the utterance unfolds over time. This not only provides valuable information on how listeners actually process different parts of an intonation contour, but allows us to tackle and resolve a number of theoretical issues in intonational phonology and intonational meaning that could not be addressed earlier. These include (a) the question of whether an intonation contour is better represented as a holistic tune or as a sequence of pitch accents which can freely combine with each other and (b) the question on whether the semantic contribution of an utterance is computed compositionally from the meaning of its parts or linked to the overall tune. We will investigate these questions for a semantically fascinating intonation contour in German, the hat pattern, as an example in place for other contours with more than one pitch accent.

Project members

  • Bettina Braun (Principal Investigator)
  • Yuki Asano (PhD student)
  • Sabine Koban (student assistant)
  • Verena Köppel (student assistant)

Relevant publications

  • Braun, B., & Tagliapietra, L. (2009). The role of contrastive intonation contours in the retrieval of contextual alternatives. Language and Cognitive Processes (preprint).
  • Braun, B. & Asano, Y. (2011). How freely can German pitch accents be combined? 7. Tagung zu Phonetik und Phonologie im deutschsprachigen Raum. Osnabrück, Germany. (talk)
  • Braun, B. & Asano, Y. (2012). Eye-tracking data on the immediate contribution of prenuclear accents and f0-interpolations to utterance interpretation in German. 13th Conference in Laboratory phonology. (poster)




Wortstellung und grammatische Funktion in der intonatorischen Markierung von Kontrast: Produktion und Perzeption

Two-year research project funded by the Young Scholar Fund of the University of Konstanz. Funding period: Jan 2010 - Dez 2011.

Project summary

This project investigates the intonational realization of the German sequential adverb "jetzt" (now) in German. Previous research in English and Dutch instruction pairs such as "Put the ball in cell 9. Now put the ball in cell 3" has shown that this adverb is mostly produced with a steep rise to signal a contrast in the location (cell 9 vs. cell 3) but is left unaccented to signal a contrast in the object (ball vs. something else). In these materials, grammatical function (object vs. location) is confounded with proximity to the adverb (close vs. further away), so the underlying mechanisms for accenting or not accenting the adverb are unclear. This project aims at filling this gap by orthogonally varying grammatical function and proximity to the adverb.

Project members

  • Bettina Braun (Principal Investigator)
  • Christine Hugel (student assistant)
  • Samuel Schweizer (student assistant)

Relevant publications

  • Braun, B., & Chen, A. (2010). Intonation of 'now' in resolving scope ambiguity in English and Dutch. Journal of Phonetics 38 (3), 431-444




In-between complex words and phrases - Probing the mental representation of idioms by means of prosody

One-year research project funded by the Young Scholar Fund of the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with Dr. Eva Smolka. Funding period: June 2010 - December 2012.

Project summary

In this collaborative project we test whether opaque idioms (such as Ich fresse einen Besen (literal translation: 'I'll eat a broom'; figureative translation: 'I'll eat my hat') are mentally represented and hence processed similar to complex words (e.g., Wachstumsbeschleunigungsgesetz) or whether they are processed more like complex phrases with high cloze-probability. Our approach is study processing difficulties arising due to contrastive accentuation within the non-compositional part of the idiom (e.g., Ich fresse EINEN Besen, where capitals indicate accented words) and compare it to processing difficulties caused by misstressing complex words.

Project members




Intonation in Spracherwerb und Produktionsplanung

Two-year research project funded by the Young Scholar Fund of the University of Konstanz. Funding period: Feb 2011-Jan 2013.

Project summary

This project has two subparts. The first investigated the role of segmental, rhythmic, and intonational information in infant's speech perception. Using the head-turn preference procedure, we test 6 and 9-month old infants' sensitivity to these kinds of information.

The second part deals with the role intonation plays in production planning. We test whether certain intonation contours are produced more easily, i.e. with less errors and shorter speech onset latencies than other contours to shed light on the tunes-vs-tones debate.



The mental representation of non-lexical tone: A Bantu case study

This project was funded by the Konstanz-Essex-Development fund (KEDF), in collaboration with Dr. Nancy Kula from Essex

Project summary

We use AX tasks and production experiments with novel-words to investigate how Bantu speakers (a language with high and low tones that may spread to the right) mentally represent lexical and non-lexical tones and how productive they can use tone spreading rules when producing novel verbs.

Project members




Perception, storage and articulation of second language phonology

This one-year project is funded by the Young Scholar fund of the university of Konstanz, running from July 2012 till June 2013.

Project summary

In this project we will conduct a series of experiments to locate the area that causes most difficulties in L2 acquisition, focusing on three main areas: (a) perceptin, (b) storate, and (c) articulation. This in turn will help us to devise efficient teaching methods for improving L2 phonolgy and pronunciation.

Project members




Bias in polar questions

Research project funded by the German Reserach Council (DFG) within the priority program XPrag.de: New pragmatic theories based on experimental evidence. Funding period: May 2014-April 2017.

Project summary

Project members

  • Bettina Braun (Principal Investigator)
  • Maribel Romero (Principal Investigator)
  • N.N. (Postdoc)
  • letzte Aktualisierung: 3.5.2012