The dual of denial: two uses of disconfirmations in dialogue and their prosodic correlates

E. Krahmer, M. Swerts, Mariet Theune, M. Weegels

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    In human–human communication, dialogue participants are continuously sending and receiving signals on the status of the information being exchanged. These signals may either be positive (‘go on') or negative (‘go back'), where it is usually found that the latter are comparatively marked to make sure that the dialogue partner is made aware of a communication problem. This article focuses on the users' signaling of information status in human–machine interactions, and in particular looks at the role prosody may play in this respect. Using a corpus of interactions with two Dutch spoken dialogue systems, prosodic correlates of users' disconfirmations were investigated. In this corpus, disconfirmations can have two uses: they may serve as a positive signal in one context and as a negative signal in another. With the data obtained from the corpus an acoustic analysis and a perception experiment have been carried out. The acoustic analysis shows that the difference in signaling function is reflected in the distribution of the various types of disconfirmations as well as in different prosodic variables (pause, duration, intonation contour and pitch range). The perception experiment revealed that subjects are very good at classifying disconfirmations as positive or negative signals (without context), which strongly suggests that the acoustic features have communicative relevance. The implications of these results for human–machine communication are discussed. Keywords: Spoken dialogue systems; Prosody; Error detection; Information grounding; Perception
    Original languageUndefined
    Article number10.1016/S0167-6393(01)00030-9
    Pages (from-to)133-144
    Number of pages12
    JournalSpeech communication
    Issue number1/2
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


    • EWI-6576
    • IR-63333

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