Project D5 (Kügler)

Tonal structure and information structure: Phonetics & Phonology


The main goal of this project is the analysis of the interaction between information structure and tonal structure and its phonetic realization. In the first phase of the project we found that information structure affects the pitch register. The language comparison of German and Akan showed that both intonation languages and tone languages show pitch register effects, though each in a language specific way. While contrastive focus is expressed by means of a raised pitch register in German, in Akan it is lowered. Based on this finding the goals of the second phase of the project are (i) a phonological analysis of pitch register as an autonomous autosegmental layer, (ii) an experimentally based analysis of the interaction of downstep, phrasing and information structure, and (iii) an integration of the effect of information structure into the model of pitch register. The goal is to identify the language specific reflexes of focus. The analysis will be based on the phonetic cues F0 and duration where duration functions as an indicator of phrasing and of prominence. We base our investigation on a comparison of tone languages (Akan, a level tone language, Mandarin Chinese, a contour tone language), an intonation language (German), and a pitch accent language (Swedish).

In the first phase of the project we also observed structural differences between entities of information structure. In German, information focus and corrective focus differ gradually in their prosodic expression. In Akan, no prosodic distinction between wide information and narrow information focus is expressed, while corrective focus differs significantly. For Mandarin Chinese, contrast of assertion and contrast of presupposition seem to be prosodically distinct. All these findings suggest that the concept of contrast may be prosodically realised differently across languages, and more over, other aspects such as the expectations of a speaker or interlocutor may play a role for the prosodic expression of focus. To test this in a language comparison, we will conduct a series of production and perception experiments which are equivalent for different languages.

This project also provides phonetic service for other projects in the SFB that deal with the prosodic expression of information structure.

Full description 3rd phase SFB 632 / D5 (extract from the application) pdficon small


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