Processing units in conversation: A comparative study of french and mandarin data

Laurent Prévot*, Shu Chuan Tseng, Klim Peshkov, Alvin Cheng Hsien Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Human spoken language production is directed towards communication delivering comprehensible information to recipients. Speech segmentation into small units efficiently enhances a sensible and interpretable discourse structure. Such processing units in real-life communication may be applied to semantic, syntactic, or prosodic structures. Previous studies have proposed various theories of speech segmentation, mainly based on qualitative analyses. The present study utilizes corpus-based quantitative data to examine how conversational speech in French and Mandarin is structured in terms of three different processing units, and how these units interact with one another. Unit completion location was identified by semantic structure (discourse unit), prosodic pattern (prosodic unit), and sequences of parts of speech (chunk). Quantitative analyses for both languages were carried out by applying comparable processing procedures. This article presents our efforts to establish a dataset for two typologically diverse languages, and to carry out quantitative comparative studies of processing units in face-to-face conversation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-92
Number of pages24
JournalLanguage and Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Chunks
  • Discourse
  • Processing units
  • Prosody

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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