Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Linguistics

First Advisor

Mark Liberman

Abstract

The fact that "purely" prosodic marking of focus may be weaker in some languages than in others, and that it varies in certain circumstances even within a single language, has not been commonly recognized. Therefore, this dissertation investigated whether and how purely prosodic marking of focus varies within and across languages. We conducted production and perception experiments using a paradigm of 10-digit phone-number strings in which the same material and discourse contexts were used in different languages.

The results demonstrated that prosodic marking of focus varied across languages. Speakers of American English, Mandarin Chinese, and Standard French clearly modulated duration, pitch, and intensity to indicate the position of corrective focus. Listeners of these languages recognized the focus position with high accuracy. Conversely, speakers of Seoul Korean, South Kyungsang Korean, Tokyo Japanese, and Suzhou Wu produced a weak and ambiguous modulation by focus, resulting in a poor identification performance.

This dissertation also revealed that prosodic marking of focus varied even within a single language. In Mandarin Chinese, a focused low/dipping tone (tone 3) received a relatively poor identification rate compared to other focused tones (about 77% vs. 91%). This lower identification performance was due to the smaller capacity of tone 3 for pitch range expansion and local dissimilatory effects around tone 3 focus. In Seoul Korean, prosodic marking of focus differed based on the tonal contrast (post-lexical low vs. high tones). The identification rate of high tones was twice as high than that of low tones (about 24% vs. 51%), the reason being that low tones had a smaller capacity for pitch range expansion than high tones.

All things considered, this dissertation demonstrates that prosodic focus is not always expressed by concomitant increased duration, pitch, and intensity. Accordingly, "purely" prosodic marking of focus is neither completely universal nor automatic, but rather is expressed through the prosodic structure of each language. Since the striking difference in focus-marking success does not seem to be determined by any previously-described typological feature, this must be regarded as an indicator of a new typological dimension, or as a function of a new typological space.

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