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Nordic Prosody

Proceedings of the XIIth Conference, Trondheim 2016

Jardar Eggesbö Abrahamsen, Jacques Koreman and Wim van Dommelen

This volume contains articles based on the presentations given at the Nordic Prosody XII conference, which was held at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim, Norway) in August 2016. The contributors investigate various prosodic aspects, including intonation, rhythm, speaking rate, intensity, and breathing, using approaches ranging from phonetic and phonological analysis to speech technology methods. While most of the studies examine read speech, some of them explore the prosodics of spontaneous speech. The languages that receive most attention are Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic as well as Estonian, Latgalian and Polish. In addition to the larger Nordic languages, several papers focus on regional languages spoken in these areas.

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Pre-focal givenness and accentuation in Estonian (Heete Sahkai / Meelis Mihkla)

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Heete Sahkai, Meelis Mihkla

Pre-focal givenness and accentuation in Estonian1

Abstract: The paper presents a production study aimed to test whether the mental status of discourse referents is among the factors that affect the distribution or scaling of pitch accents in Estonian. The study examines the accentuation properties of previously mentioned content words, testing if they are either deaccented or produced with a reduced pitch accent in terms of F0, duration and intensity. The test words are examined pre-focally, since post-focal given information is known from earlier studies to be deaccented, and in a sentence-medial position, since a phrase-initial or topic constituent could call for accentuation independently of the mental status of the referent. The results suggest that pre-focal given information is accented, and that the accent is to some extent reduced with respect to that of a previously unmentioned constituent. However, the amount of the reduction is significant only when the unmentioned constituent is additionally included in the focus domain, suggesting that the mental status of a referent alone, independently of the (non-)focality of the corresponding constituent, does not produce a perceivable phonetic effect.

1. Introduction

The present study contributes to determining the factors that affect the distribution and realisation of pitch accents in Estonian. A well-known factor affecting sentence prosody is information structure, including the hearer’s presumed mental representations of the discourse referents in terms of their identifiability and activation (Lambrecht, 1994:74–116). The mental status of a...

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