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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Intonational phonetics: alignment and scaling of tonal targets


Given the autosegmental understanding that the pitch contour of an utterance is the realisation of a string of tones, an obvious question for phonetic research is how these tones are realised. The phonetic manifestation of the tones is generally conceived of as some sort of tonal target; the principal phonetic dimensions on which tonal targets can vary are their pitch level – often referred to as scaling – and their temporal coordination with the consonants and vowels of the segmental string – often referred to as alignment. This autosegmental perspective has been extremely productive of instrumental phonetic research since the 1980s; and on the whole this research has shown that both scaling and alignment are highly lawful and can be systematically influenced by a range of phonetic and phonological effects. This work, together with some of its phonological implications, is reviewed in this chapter.

Alignment of tonal targets with the segmental string

Alignment as a phonetic dimension

At least since the early work of the IPO researchers in the 1970s, it has been clear that intonational distinctions can be conveyed by differences in the way pitch movements are aligned with the segmental string. For example, the IPO analysis of Dutch intonation distinguished between Type 1 and Type 3 rises, both of which were said to be ‘prominence-lending’ pitch movements (i.e. pitch accents); the difference between them is that the Type 1 rise is aligned early in the prominent syllable, while the Type 3 rise is aligned somewhat later.