Intonation: Theory, Models, and Applications

Athens, Greece
September 18-20, 1997


Sentence Intonation in Four Romance Languages

Philippe Martin

Department of French, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Current phonosyntactic theories of intonation associate the syntactic structure of the sentence with a prosodic structure encoded by contours located on or around stressed syllables. This prosodic structure appears to use specific mechanisms in different languages, based on various contrasts of contours such as slope (i.e. rising vs. falling), amplitude of melodic variation, duration, and so forth. In French, for instance, prosodic contours on stressed syllables contrast in slope and amplitude with the contour dominating on the right [1 ]. Native speakers of four Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese) were asked to read 25 sentences, designed to be similar in their syntactic structure, so that a relatively easy comparison between contours and prosodic grammar in each language could be conducted. These sentences were analyzed in order to determine the characteristics of the prosodic contours located on stressed syllables, and the type of contrast they maintain with each other. Experimental results reveal strong similarities between contour sequences in the four languages, as well as some systematic differences.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Martin, Philippe (1997): "Sentence intonation in four romance languages", In INT-1997, 227-230.