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Prosodic manifestations of the Effort Code in Catalan, Italian and Spanish contrastive focus

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2013

Maria del Mar Vanrell
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid,
Antonio Stella
Università del Salento – CRIL, Lecce,
Barbara Gili Fivela
Università del Salento – CRIL, Lecce,
Pilar Prieto
Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats – Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona,


This paper investigates the relevance of three prosodic parameters (alignment, duration and scaling) in the conveyance of contrastive focus in Catalan, Italian and Spanish. In particular, we seek to determine how the Effort Code is instantiated in the expression of contrastive focus in both production and perception. According to the Effort Code, putting more effort into speech production will lead to greater articulatory precision (de Jong 1995, Gussenhoven 2004) and this is related to the expression of focus in the sense that wider pitch excursions will be used to signal meanings that are relevant from an informational point of view. A dual production and perception experiment based on an identification task was conducted. Results for the production part show that contrastive focus accents have earlier peaks for all three languages but f0 peaks are systematically lower only in Italian. Syllables bearing the contrastive focus accents are also longer in the three languages. Regarding the results for the perception part, converging evidence is found not only for an active perceptual use of the three prosodic parameters present in production but also for language-specific preferences for particular prosodic parameters.

Research Article
Copyright © International Phonetic Association 2013 

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