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14 - English I: Phrasing and Accent Distribution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2010

Carlos Gussenhoven
Affiliation:
Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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Summary

Introduction

One way of thinking about the structure of English intonation is as a complicated form of the intonational structure of French. The features in table 14.1 have been arranged such that the first six are common to French and English, while the next three show English to be more complex than French. To put this comparison in some perspective, the data for Bengali, from Hayes and Lahiri (1991a), have been added in the third column.

As shown by the first two features, the role of the ϕ in English and French is to create rhythmic distributions of pitch accents. There is no principled limit to the number of pitch accents in a ϕ, although there will commonly be one or two, and rarely more than three. Feature 2 shows that both French and English readjust the locations of these pitch accents within the ϕ. In English, the transparency of these rhythmic adjustments is reduced by the fact that accentuation is in part governed by lexical rules, such as the Compound Rule.

Features 3–6 show that French and English both have optional right-hand Tl-tones, which always come as singletons. The two languages differ from Bengali, which has Hϕ, and in which Tl is obligatory and may be bitonal (TlTl). The more complex nature of English vis-à-vis French lies in its richer pitch accent paradigms, as shown in rows 7 and 8, and most dramatically in the number of different nuclear contours, i.e. combinations of nuclear pitch accents and boundary tones. In one salient aspect, Bengali is similar to English. Unlike French, both English and Bengali employ tritonal contours on a single syllable, as indicated in rows 10 and 11.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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