Variation in the prosody of focus in head- and head/edge-prominence languages


This study explored the prosodic realization of focus in four typologically unrelated languages: American English, Paraguayan Guaraní, Moroccan Arabic, and K’iche’. American English and Paraguayan Guaraní mark prosodic prominence culminatively on the head of the prosodic unit, whereas Moroccan Arabic and K’iche’ mark prosodic prominence demarcatively on the right edge of the prosodic unit. To allow for cross-linguistic comparisons, the same interactive task was used for all four languages in their respective countries. Utterances were elicited in which a color-denoting adjective, a shape-denoting noun, or the noun phrase consisting of the adjective and the noun was focused. Data from each language were annotated phonologically using an autosegmental-metrical approach and analyzed acoustically. The results suggest that the prosodic realization of focus is partially orthogonal to the distinction between head-prominence and head/edge-prominence languages, and may be due to differences in macro-rhythm. American English and Paraguayan Guaraní, the head-prominence languages, share deaccenting as a means for marking non-focused expressions, but only English uses pitch accent type to mark focused elements. Moroccan Arabic, a head/edge-prominence language, uses phrasing and duration cues to focus, but K’iche’, also a head/edge-prominence language, does not. In addition, American English shares phrasing cues, and both American English and Paraguayan Guaraní share duration cues with Moroccan Arabic, despite their structural prosodic differences.



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