Prosody in tourist oral communication. Pausing in city audio guides


Abstract – Over the last decades, tourist communication has been widely investigated in various languages, involving a variety of printed and Web-based genres and a variety of perspectives. However, as far as oral tourist genres are concerned, there seems to be a gap in academic research, with the published literature including a study by Gavioli (2015) on dialogue interpreting in guided tours in English, a study by Francesconi (2014) on prosody in a BBC travel radio programme, a study by Ravazzolo (2014) on guided tours of botanic parks in French, and a study by Nardi (2012) on museum audio guides in German. Even lesser attention has been paid to the prosodic features of speech in oral tourist genres, and how these are employed to effectively deliver the contents of the tour. This study attempts to contribute to developing this specific area of tourist studies by investigating prosody in city audio guides. More specifically, the study focuses on the use of pauses in city audio guides in Italian and in English. At a theoretical level, the city audio guide is intended here as a form of informative script-based public speaking, whose main function is to provide historical and artistic information on the sites visited by users. On the basis of such theoretical premises, the study unfolds around the assumption that prosody – and pausing in this specific case – plays a key role in effective content delivery and uptake. The study was carried out on 42 audio fragments selected from the scripts of 21 audio guides produced in Italy, the UK and the USA. In each audio fragment, silent pauses were annotated by means of PRAAT, a software for acoustic analysis of speech. The use of pauses between utterances was then investigated in each group of fragments, quantitatively in terms of pause duration variation, and qualitatively in relation to the textual features of the selected portions of scripts. The results show a more frequent use of long pauses and patterned pausing in the British audio fragments with respect to their Italian and American counterparts. Finally, the results are framed within a discussion on best practices in public speaking.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v23p57

Keywords: city audio guides; prosody; pausing; public speaking; acoustic analysis


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