Speech Prosody 2002

Aix-en-Provence, France
April 11-13, 2002

‘Stress Accent’ without Phonetic Stress: Accent Type and Distribution in Bininj Gun-wok

Judith Bishop

Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, University of Melbourne, Australia

Intonational typology has recently begun to scrutinize the typology of accent beyond the common binary distinction of ‘stress accent’ and ‘pitch accent’ (or ‘non-stress’ accent). Contributing to this research, this study considers the phonetic correlates of accent and its patterns of distribution in the Kuninjku dialect of Bininj Gun-wok (BGW), a polysynthetic language spoken in Northern Australia. In BGW, postlexical accents (H*, L+H*) are attracted to metrically strong syllables, a defining feature of ‘stress accent’ languages. However, contrary to many stress accent languages described in the literature, pitch is the single consistent correlate of accent. In BGW, increased syllable duration is a weakly significant correlate of accent only on the penultimate syllable of an intonational phrase and intensity is not a consistent correlate. BGW accent type may be more accurately described as ‘metrical accent’, a term which captures the attraction of accent to metrical strength without the correlative assumption of phonetic stress. Accent in BGW has a clear metricalprominence- enhancing function, but it may also perform a delimitative function at the level of the phonological word. While more than one accent can associate to a phonological word, in the Kuninjku dialect, a single accent will almost invariably align with the leftmost metrical head in the word.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Bishop, Judith (2002): "‘stress accent² without phonetic stress: accent type and distribution in Bininj Gun-wok", In SP-2002, 179-182.