Variation in list intonation in American Jewish English


Yiddish-influenced intonation has been previously noted as a potential defining characteristic of American Jewish English, and list intonation was identified as a possible area of differentiation. However, apart from remarks in general descriptions of Standard American English (SAE) prosody, a systematic study of list intonation has not been conducted in SAE. In this study, lists were defined, and extracted from sociolinguistic interviews with Jewish women with varying degrees of exposure to Yiddish. The lists were then ToBI annotated. Speakers from different language backgrounds differed significantly in their use of contours, boundary tones and pitch accents on list items, with speakers with less exposure to Yiddish using more of the standard English contour (H* H-L%) than speakers with more exposure to Yiddish. Yiddish bilinguals were more likely to use a rise fall contour (L+H* L-L%), fewer H-L% boundary tones and H* pitch accents, and more rising pitch accents (L+H* and L*+H) than non-bilinguals. In addition, speakers of all language backgrounds used a variety of list intonations, showing the need for more systematic study into the uses and meanings, social and otherwise, of list intonations.



Publication Date


Journal Title

Speech Prosody 2014



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type

Conference Proceeding