The role of focus in accentual lengthening in American English: Kinematic analyses

Argyro Katsika, Jiyoung Jang, Jelena Krivokapić, Louis Goldstein, Elliot Saltzman


Prominent syllables are longer than their non-prominent counterparts. However, it is unclear whether the source of the effect is accentuation or focus structure, and, if it is focus structure, whether different types of focus are differentiated by lengthening. It is also unclear whether these length distinctions are best understood as categorical vs. gradient effects. Here we address these issues by an electromagnetic articulography study of American English. The test words, embedded in short dialogues, were 1) unfocused, 2) de-accented, or 3) accented under a) broad, b) narrow or c) contrastive focus. The test words were further controlled for length (one, two, three or four syllables) and position of stress (first, second, or third syllable). The durations of the consonant gestures of the stressed syllables were calculated. Results from eight speakers indicate that regardless of word length and stress position, prominence-related lengthening reflects both accent and focus in American English. Not only were accented gestures longer than their unaccented counterparts, but also the three types of focus presented an increase in lengthening from: broad < narrow < contrastive. Unfocused and de-accented gestures were not differentiated. A hierarchy of prominence is proposed and discussed in terms of categorical vs. gradient distinctions.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-56

Cite as: Katsika, A., Jang, J., Krivokapić, J., Goldstein, L., Saltzman, E. (2020) The role of focus in accentual lengthening in American English: Kinematic analyses. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 275-279, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-56.


@inproceedings{Katsika2020,
  author={Argyro Katsika and Jiyoung Jang and Jelena Krivokapić and Louis Goldstein and Elliot Saltzman},
  title={{The role of focus in accentual lengthening in American English:  Kinematic analyses}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={275--279},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-56},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-56}
}