Translating emphatic/contrastive focus from English to Mandarin Chinese

Chen Li Kuo*, Allan Ramsay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review


Despite the importance of intonation in spoken languages, deeper linguistic information encoded in prosody is rarely taken into account in speech-to-speech machine translation systems. This paper concerns the translation of spoken English into Mandarin Chinese, paying particular attention to the emphatic/contrastive focus in questions which is realised by means of phonological stress in spoken English but by lexical and syntactic devices in Mandarin. There are two main reasons to translate phonologically marked emphatic/contrastive focus with other linguistic devices: firstly, different languages tend to use different devices to express emphatic/contrastive focus; secondly, the production of prosody in text-to-speech systems is far from perfect. In this paper, a translation framework which is capable of treating emphatic/contrastive focus is outlined and focus rules are developed. The framework has been tested on a corpus of 207 utterances in the domain of asthma, although the focus rules are not domain-specific.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-203
Number of pages23
JournalMachine Translation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 12 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Emphatic/contrastive focus
  • Mandarin focus construction
  • Prosody
  • Rule-based MT
  • Speech translation


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