An enhanced autosegmental-metrical theory (AM+) facilitates phonetically transparent prosodic annotation

Laura Dilley, Mara Breen


The application of autosegmental theory to a variety of tonal systems in the past 40 years has spurred a wealth of insight. This general theoretic framework, informed by metrical stress theory, has come to be known as autosegmental-metrical (AM) theory. The application of this theory to intonation languages spawned a family of transcription approaches known generally as Tones and Break Indices, or ToBI. Yet, a number of weaknesses and limitations have been noted, both at the theoretical level and the empirical level with ToBI. We show here that core limitations in the traditional AM theoretic approach can be traced clearly to a failure to consistently and transparently encode syntagmatic relationships in phonology. Building on the core insights of traditional AM theory from the past 40 years, and drawing on empirical evidence about cognitive representations for pitch from phonetics, music cognition, music theory, and cognitive neuroscience, we propose a new theoretic approach, termed enhanced AM theory, or AM+. This proposal offers a theoretical clarification of syntagmatic elements in phonology. It is shown that attributing both syntagmatic and paradigmatic properties to tones provides a unifying account of multiple outstanding challenges in tone and intonation research.


 DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2018-14

Cite as: Dilley, L., Breen, M. (2018) An enhanced autosegmental-metrical theory (AM+) facilitates phonetically transparent prosodic annotation. Proc. TAL2018, Sixth International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages, 67-71, DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2018-14.


@inproceedings{Dilley2018,
  author={ Laura Dilley and Mara Breen},
  title={ An enhanced autosegmental-metrical theory (AM+) facilitates phonetically transparent prosodic annotation},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. TAL2018, Sixth International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages},
  pages={67--71},
  doi={10.21437/TAL.2018-14},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/TAL.2018-14}
}