Optional accentuation of pronouns in German

Frank Kügler

Prosodic weak elements generally tend to be unaccented in intonation languages. Pronouns usually count as prosodic weak elements. Given that a pitch accent usually serves as an indicator of a head of a prosodic phrase, this paper tackles the question if pronouns in German are weak prosodic elements in general, or whether pronouns may carry an accent, and if so, how pronouns in German are prosodically phrased. We investigate structural, phonological and pragmatic effects on the accentuation of pronouns. The presence or absence of a pitch accent is taken to be an indicator of phrasing. The data on carefully controlled read sentences show that pronouns in German may be accented, which corroborates findings on accented pronouns in conversational speech. In focus contexts, pronouns are almost exclusively accented. A clear tendency for a pronoun to be accented is (i) when it is disyllabic as opposed to a monosyllabic one, and (ii) when it occurs within a syntactic position before the finite verb as opposed to a right-exposed occurrence. We analyse this as optional accentuation and model this in terms of minor phrase stress [1]. If associated with a pitch accent, pronouns usually bear less prominent accents than obligatory sentence accents.

 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-136

Cite as: Kügler, F. (2018) Optional accentuation of pronouns in German. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 671-675, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-136.

  author={Frank Kügler},
  title={Optional accentuation of pronouns in German},
  booktitle={Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018},