The appropriateness of prenuclear accent types – Evidence for information structural effects

Stefan Baumann, Janina Kalbertodt, Jane Mertens


In this study, two perception experiments on German were carried out to investigate whether informativeness (comprising information status and focus) affects listeners’ appropriateness judgments of accent types in prenuclear position and whether these effects depend on the mode of context presentation (listening vs. reading). Five different prenuclear f0 contours were tested for each target sentence by combining them with four contexts varying the informativeness of the sentence-initial target word. As expected, the results mirror the findings of an earlier production study on prenuclear accents: In general, there is a preference for rising accent types in prenuclear position but we also find subtle effects of informativeness. Listeners clearly prefer deaccentuation and low accents on given referents, whereas rising accents are favored for referents in a contrastive context. Contrary to our expectations, high accents were judged as least appropriate, even in contexts where the referent was newly introduced. Importantly, the effects of informativeness are independent of the mode of context presentation, i.e. silent reading did not significantly alter the appropriateness judgments of accent types. These findings once more challenge the view of prenuclear accents as being merely ‘ornamental’ and rather suggest that they are sensitive to changes in information structure.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-33

Cite as: Baumann, S., Kalbertodt, J., Mertens, J. (2020) The appropriateness of prenuclear accent types – Evidence for information structural effects. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 161-165, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-33.


@inproceedings{Baumann2020,
  author={Stefan Baumann and Janina Kalbertodt and Jane Mertens},
  title={{The appropriateness of prenuclear accent types – Evidence for information structural effects}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={161--165},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-33},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-33}
}