Speech Prosody 2006

Dresden, Germany
May 2-5, 2006

Replicating in Naxi (Tibeto-Burman) an Experiment Designed for Yorubá: An Approach To ‘Prominence-Sensitive Prosody’ vs. ‘Calculated Prosody’

Alexis Michaud

Laboratoire Phonétique et Phonologie, CNRS/Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, France

The starting-point of this study is the hypothesis (suggested by an overview of typologically varied languages) that it may be useful to characterise prosodic systems in terms of the degree to which they rely on the calculation of tone sequences. Each language could be placed at a certain position along a typological continuum between two types of prosodic organisation: (i) ‘calculated prosody’, in languages such as Yorùbá (in which tone serves complex morphophonological functions), whose prosodic structure hinges on the calculation of a tone sequence, by categorical processes such as the association of lexical tones and/or boundary tones, reassociation/‘tone floating’, and downstep; and (ii) ‘prominence-sensitive prosody’, typologically more common, found in languages such as Chinese, which have fewer elements of categorical tonal calculation, and in which intonation appears to reflect phrasing and informational structure in a largely noncategorical way. In an effort to test (and refine) this hypothesis, an experiment used for Yorùbá [8, 9] is adapted to Naxi, a Sino-Tibetan language which, like Yorùbá, has three lexical tones (High, Mid and Low), but which is hypothesised to be closer to the ‘prominencesensitive prosody’ type, whereas Yorùbá would be closer to the ‘calculated prosody’ type. This pilot study on sentences in which all syllables bear the same tone does bring out differences between the two languages in terms of phenomena of phrasing and of prominence.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Michaud, Alexis (2006): "Replicating in Naxi (tibeto-burman) an experiment designed for Yorb: an approach to ‘prominence-sensitive prosody² vs. ‘calculated prosody’", In SP-2006, paper 135.