The interpretation and phonetic implementation of !H* in American English


Downstep in American English has been understudied relative to other types of pitch accents. Our aim is to investigate both the interpretation and the phonetic implementation of !H*. The first experiment investigated participant’s preference for H* vs. !H* pitch accents in new vs. accessible contexts. Results from this experiment show that participants showed a preference for H* for both new and accessible contexts, but that they choose !H* relatively more in the accessible ones. Additionally, participants were more likely to select !H* when it had a smaller fall onto the stressed syllable. The second experiment explored whether participants could distinguish between !H* pitch accents with larger and smaller falls. The results showed that participants were more accurate discriminating between stimuli that were further apart in pitch; however, this effect was mediated by the stimuli’s f0 range, with lower stimuli being easier to discriminate than higher ones. Together, these experiments reveal the complexities of downstep in American English in both where it occurs pragmatically and how it is phonetically produced and perceived.



Publication Date


Journal Title

Speech Prosody 2022



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type

Conference Proceeding