Speech Prosody 2002

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

Characteristics of the Accentual Phrase in French: an Acoustic, Articulatory and Perceptual Study

Guillaume Rolland, Hélène Loevenbruck

Institut de la Communication Parlée, INPG, Université Stendhal, CNRS UMR 5009, France

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the acoustic, articulatory and perceptual relevance of the Accentual Phrase (AP) in French. The AP is the lowest level of the hierarchical model of French intonation proposed by Jun and Fougeron [7]. A corpus of 22 sentences, each likely to yield 3 APs, was recorded for 4 native French speakers. Our first aim was to describe the acoustic properties of the AP. We measured both primary (LH*) and secondary (LHi) accents in terms of F0 peak values, F0 slopes, duration of the F0 rises, duration of the peak-bearing syllables and number of syllables needed for the rise. We found that the AP was often realized as [LHiLH*], with the H* peak featuring a higher F0 value, a longer duration, a stronger syllable-anchoring than Hi, and the LH* rise being more dynamic than LHi. We compared these acoustic results with those of a previous articulatory analysis and confirmed the preponderance of H* over Hi. Then using perceptual tests, we tried to evaluate the ability of French listeners to slice utterances into Accentual Phrases. The slicing scores show that the listeners could well split the sentences into separate APs. Once this ability quantified, we tried to match these results with the acoustic measurements to address the following question: what makes an AP be perceived as a unit? We suggest that the Accentual Phrase is perceived as a unit mainly because of its tonal (low-high-low-higher), durational (AP-final syllable longest) and dynamic (long small rise - brief large rise) characteristics.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Rolland, Guillaume / Loevenbruck, Hélène (2002): "Characteristics of the accentual phrase in French: an acoustic, articulatory and perceptual study", In SP-2002, 611-614.