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No stress, no pitch accent, no prosodic focus: the case of Ambonese Malay*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 October 2016

Raechel Maskikit-Essed*
Radboud University Nijmegen
Carlos Gussenhoven*
Radboud University Nijmegen


Varieties of Malay, including Indonesian, have been variously described as having word stress on the penultimate syllable, as having variable word stress and as having a phrase-final pitch accent without word stress. In Ambonese Malay, the alignment of sentence-final pitch peaks fails to support the existence of either word stress or phrase-final pitch accents. Also, the shape of its pitch peaks fails to vary systematically with the information status of the phrase-final word. The two intonation melodies of the language include phrase-final boundary-tone complexes which do not associate with any syllables. The declarative rise-fall would appear to be timed so as to occur within the last word of the sentence. Minimal stress pairs presented in earlier descriptions show a contrast between /a/ and a segmentally distinct weak /ă/, a contrast that also appears in positions that have not been claimed to have stress. A preliminary phonological analysis concludes the account.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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Many people have assisted us with their expertise at various stages of the work. Aone van Engelenhoven, Joop Kerkhoff, Rosina Lekawael, Thommy Leninduan, Alexander Maskikit, Donald Maskikit and Jonathan Maskikit helped us in various ways to get the project going. We are particularly indebted to Vincent van Heuven, Roeland van Hout, Francesca Moro, Jos Pacilly, Toni Rietveld, Hein Steinhauer and Marco van de Ven for indispensable information and advice. We thank our speakers, Corine Bary, Ata Maskikit, Ois Maskikit, Oly Maskikit, Simon Maskikit, Kees de Schepper, Peter de Swart and Sammy Tarenskeen, for their help and patience. Results of this investigation were presented on thirteen occasions between 2013 and 2015, and we are grateful for the helpful input we received from the audiences as well as for the critical comments of three anonymous reviewers and the editors. The first author wishes to thank the Stichting Nijmeegs Universiteitsfonds (SNUF) for a travel grant to go to Ambon as part of the work for her M.A. thesis.

A report on Principal Component Analyses of the segmental landmarks in the Dutch and Ambonese Malay data is available as online supplementary materials at Links to sound files for Figs. 7, 10, 11 and 13 can be found in the online version of the journal.


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No stress, no pitch accent, no prosodic focus: the case of Ambonese Malay*
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