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2 - Pitch in Language I: Stress and Intonation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2010

Carlos Gussenhoven
Affiliation:
Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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Summary

Introduction

A consideration of the ways in which pitch variation functions in language brings up a number of concepts that provide the basis for a broad prosodic typology. Stress is without a doubt the most widely researched prosodic concept. Section 2.2 aims to clarify what it is, how it is realized, and how it relates to tone and F0. Tone languages, which use pitch for distinguishing words, are discussed in chapter 3. Languages without lexical tone are referred to as ‘non-tonal languages’ or ‘intonation-only languages’. In section 2.3, intonation is treated as the use of phonological tone for non-lexical purposes, or – to put it positively – for the expression of phrasal structure and discourse meaning. In the discussion of intonation, the notion accent is introduced as a location where intonational tones are located.

The notions ‘stress’, ‘tone’, ‘accent’, and ‘intonation’ all refer to suprasegmental aspects of the phonological structure, but they are in fact rather different. Many phonologists would argue that all languages have phonological stress in the sense of foot structure, even though the phonetic salience of stressed syllables will vary considerably from language to language, to the extent that some languages have no observable phonetic stress. Probably all languages have structural intonation. However, only about half have lexical tone, while for many languages it will not make sense to speak of ‘accent’.

Stress

In Francis Ford Coppola's film The Conversation (1974), a conversation carried on by two people in a busy square is surreptitiously recorded with the help of three microphones (partly long-distance directional).

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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