Aix-en-Provence, France, 11-13 April 2002
Ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues, let me first of all welcome you all to Aix-en-Provence and hope that your stay here will be fruitful, stimulating and enjoyable.
It is a great honour and pleasure to be able to welcome so many of you, coming from so many different countries from all over the world, to take part in Speech Prosody 2002 which we have, slightly provocatively, subtitled the first international conference on speech prosody. There have, after all, been other international meetings on the subject: Lund 1993, Yokohama 1994, Athens 1997 as well as a number of other smaller, more specialised meetings on specific themes.
Calling this meeting an international conference rather than a workshop or a symposium is a deliberate move to draw attention to the fact that the subject of speech prosody today covers a huge multidisciplinary area of research involving scientists from very different backgrounds and traditions, including academic linguistics and phonetics, conversation analysis, semantics and pragmatics, sociolinguistics, acoustics, speech synthesis and recognition, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, speech therapy, language teaching. Work in each of these fields has evolved very rapidly over the last few years and it is today virtually impossible for any one person to keep up with the most recent work in all of these fields. The subject is particularly daunting for young researchers coming into the area who need to acquire a background in several fields, which are often taught in entirely different departments or institutions.
Calling this meeting the first international conference in no way implies that we are not aware of or do not feel indebted to previous efforts. There have been a number of initiatives in the last decade concerned with international research in the field of speech prosody.
At the XIIth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS XII), held in 1991 here in Aix-en-Provence, over 20% of the papers presented at the Congress were directly concerned with the subject of prosody. In the light of this, it was decided at the last minute to organise an informal meeting during the congress to discuss International cooperation in the field of prosody and intonation. More than a hundred people turned up at this meeting. In order to promote international exchanges in the field, George Allen proposed to set up an email list: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 1991, meetings on prosody have become a regular feature of ICPhS conferences: Stockholm 1995 (Workshop on prosodic annotation) and San Francisco 1999 (Workshop on Intonation: models and ToBI labelling).
In Europe, ESCA, the European Speech Communication Association sponsored two large workshops on Prosody and Intonation; the first, hosted by Gösta Bruce in Lund in September 1993, and the second, hosted by Antonis Botinis in Athens in September 1997 as a satellite meeting of Eurospeech 1997. ELSNET and ERASMUS organised a summer school on prosody, Prosody: the interface between speech and natural language, at University College London in July 1993.
In Asia, an International Symposium on Prosody, organised by Hiroya Fujisaki, was held as a satellite meeting of ICSLP in Yokohama in September 1994. ATR Interpreting Telecommunications Research Laboratories in Kyoto organised an international workshop on Computational Approaches to Processing the Prosody of Spontaneous Speech in Spring 1995.
In the United States, the main thrust of activity was towards the establishment of a standard prosodic labelling system for American English. Workshops were held on the subject at MIT
(Victor Zue, August 1991), NYNEX (Kim Silverman, April 1992) which led to the definition of the specifications for the ToBI labelling system; further ToBI workshops were held at Ohio State University in 1993 and Boston University in 1994.
Besides these events, there have been a considerable number of smaller workshops concerned with specific issues in the field of speech prosody including:
Calling this the first international conference on speech prosody, then, is intended more to imply that we hope sincerely that it will not be the last, and that meetings of this kind will in future be organised on a regular basis. They would provide a natural forum for scientific exchange both for established workers in the field and for those who are new to the area and wish to get up to date on this exciting and rapidly expanding field.
As you know, since the year 2000, speech prosody now has its own international group SProSIG, a special interest group which has its own fully archived mailing list:
and which is supported by ISCA, the International Speech Communication Association.
On Friday evening the general assembly of the group will be an opportunity to discuss among other things the possibility of organising future conferences.
In the meantime we have put together what I hope you will agree is a very rich and exciting program. There are a number of new features which we have implemented at this conference and we look forward to hearing from you your reactions and suggestions for improvements.
May I also take the opportunity of hoping that those of you who have never been to Aix-en-Provence before will manage to find a little time to sample the outstanding natural, cultural and human qualities of this town and this region, despite the heavy workload which is waiting for you in the next three days!
Before we move on to the programme, I should like to remind you that Aix-en-Provence has a long history of research in the field of speech prosody so it is only fitting that this conference should take place here. The Institut de Phonétique d'Aix was founded in 1960 by Georges Faure who, in 1933, had earned a scholarship for a year in London, studying under Daniel Jones and who devoted his research to the study of prosody and intonation at a time when the subject was far less fashionable that it is today. The Institut de Phonétique quickly made a name for itself in the area of speech prosody and in 1971 the CNRS created a research laboratory here, originally specifically devoted to the study of intonation.
Since those days, the laboratory has grown to become the laboratory of speech and language: Laboratoire Parole et Langage (LPL) under the direction of Mario Rossi until 1992. This conference today provides me with an opportunity of paying a public tribute and dedicating these proceedings to someone who has been instrumental in developing the field of speech science in general, and speech prosody in particular, over the last decades, someone to whom I and his other former students here today personally owe a great deal. So it is with a great pleasure that in my own name, in that of my colleagues from Aix-en-Provence, and all those from France, from other European countries and from all over the world who wish to associate themselves with this tribute, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the honorary president of this conference, Mario Rossi.
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