Second International Conference on Spoken Language Processing (ICSLP'92)

Banff, Alberta, Canada
October 13-16, 1992

Stress Shift as Pitch Accent Placement: Within-Word Early Accent Placement in American English

Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel

Speech Communication Group, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., USA

A theory of pitch accents in English must answer at least three questions: What is the inventory of pitch accent types, what are their acoustic correlates, and where can speakers place them. These questions have not proved easy to answer, partly because speakers differ in where they choose to put pitch accents in a given sentence, listeners differ in where they perceive them, and theories make predictions which seem to differ from both. This paper summarizes a series of recent empirical findings regarding one aspect of the third question: pitch accent placement within words. We reprise the data from an analysis of words that are candidates for early pitch accent placement in a corpus of FM radio news stories (see Ross et al., this volume [17]) and present additional data from critical pairs of sentences read in the laboratory, suggesting that a) early accent placement in a word (i.e. before the main-stress syllable) is influenced by structural factors, such as a tendency to place an accent early in a new prosodic constituent, as well as by rhythmic factors, such as a tendency toward regular placement of pitch accents, b) double accenting of words is not uncommon, particularly when no other words in the phrase are accented, again showing a tendency to accent early in the phrase, and c) the final or nuclear accent in a phrase is almost invariably located on the main-stress syllable of its word. These findings support a model in which speakers can optionally accent nearly any full-vowel syllable before the main-stress syllable of words in prenuclear position, and selections among those options are influenced in part by factors related to both structure and rhythm.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Shattuck-Hufnagel, Stefanie (1992): "Stress shift as pitch accent placement: within-word early accent placement in american English", In ICSLP-1992, 747-750.