University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


The paper motivates a new, musical, view on rhythmic variation that focuses on accent and pause distributions on the intonational phrase level and views accenthood broadly as an interplay between relative duration, relative intensity and pitch accentuation. The musical approach to rhythmic variation integrates the study of rhythm into the study of the rest of the prosodic landscape and aims to emphasize the importance of syntagmatic rhythmic variables: rhythmic patterns. The musical approach highlights dramatic contrasts in the use of rhythmic and prosodic resources on the part of Melody, a jock, and Judy, a burnout (Eckert 1989, 2000), two stylistic opposites and the stars of our investigation. Melody’s IPs are characterized by a single accented syllable which often corresponds to the focal accent, while Judy’s IPs contain multiple accented syllables and IP-internal pauses which together comprise a rhythmic pattern. In addition, ‘disfluencies’ in Judy’s speech perform a rhythmic function. Judy’s use of rhythmic patterns and the diversity in the phonetic realization of her accents suggest that she is more expressive in her use of prosodic resources, while Melody’s rhythmic strategies reflect information structure.



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