Suprasegmental features and ProsodyPresentation Transcript
Suprasegmental features and Prosody Lect 6A&B LING1005/6105
An informal definition : The ‘music’ of a language, its characteristic ‘melody’ and ‘rhythm’.
A more formal definition : The system of prosodic contrasts that a language employs.
Supra-segmental features : Phonetic features that span more than a single speech segment. Features that span a whole syllable or are only apparent when one syllable is compared with others in its neighbourhood.
Typical suprasegmental features :
Loudness or vocal effort
Length or relative duration of a syllable
Suprasegmental features realize or express prosodic contrasts.
Made up of three prosodic systems:
Stress: operates at the level of the word
Intonation: operates at the level of the phrase or whole utternace.
Stress: the relative prominence of a syllable.
Rhythm: patterns of stress in time.
Intonation: the pitch pattern of an utterance.
Prosody in languages that are related to English can be analysed under three main headings (word stress, rhythm, intonation).
However, for tone languages (Chinese, Vietnamese, and many others) or other languages whose prosodic system is quite different from that of English (like Japanese), the 3-way division of prosody into stress, rhythm and intonation applies only in part.
Prosodic interference or transfer effects (interference of L1 prosody on L2) can be a major source of difficulty for second language learners.
More on this later.
English word stress
Locate the main stress (most prominent syllable) in these words:
electric electrician permit (n) permit (v)
Locate the unstressed syllables in the words above.
Unstressed syllables undergo vowel reduction.
Syllables that are not reduced, but not the most prominent in the word are called ‘secondary stressed’ syllables.
Hence we may distinguish 3 levels of stress in English words:
Primary : main stress or accent
Secondary : unreduced and not accented
Tertiary: reduced or unstressed.
Some word stress alternations in English:
diplomat diplomacy diplomatic
photograph photography photographic
It is sometimes hard to distinguish between secondary and tertiary levels of stress.
There is some dialect variation with vowel reduction.
English word stress ‘likes’ to follow an alternating pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables:
S U S U S U S S U S U
Word stress is culminative in English .
Polysyllabic words in English have a single center of stress prominence, the accented syllable.
Even in long words, which might be said to have two primary stressed syllables:
One syllable in the word tends to carry the accent in the intonation contour of a whole utternace.
The stress pattern of a word ‘culminates’ in a single syllable – the one that potentially carries phrase accent.
Words that are composed of words:
hot-dog hot dog
[ h t d g] [ h t d g]
look-in look in
[ l k ] [ l k ]
<opportunity> <look in>
Compound word has initial stress.
The second element of the compound is de-accented. (Compared with the 2 nd element of the phrase)
Only one accented syllable per word.
Stress is important for the sound pattern of English words
Non-native speakers of English should practice hearing and producing these stress contrasts:
an insult to in sult
an overflow to over flow
an increase to in crease
a walkout to walk out
See exercises from Peter Ladefoged .
Stress and word class in English
All major lexical items carry primary stress (have an accentable syllable).
Function words are normally unstressed (reduced)
John was sure that the keys were on the table .
The preposition ‘on’ which carries primary stress, is an exception to the rule in this case.
The accented syllables on lexical items and the unstressed function words set up a rhythmic pattern in English utterances.
Stressed syllables tend to occur at regular intervals of time.
Stressed syllables tend to o ccur at regular intervals of time.
You can usually tap in regular time to the primary stressed syllables in a fluent English phrase.
English is said to be a ‘stress-timed’ language.
Other languages are said to be ‘syllable timed’ (e.g. French) or ‘mora timed’ (Japanese, Finnish).
No language is perfectly rhythmic (isochronous) and this classification of types of language rhythm remains controversial.
Summarizing: English stress
Three levels of prominence (stress) in English words.
Depending on whether a syllable may carry accent, or undergo reduction:
Primary stress yes no stressed
Secondary stress no no stressed
Tertiary stress no yes unstressed
English stress is culminative.
Alternating stressed and unstressed syllables set up rhythmic patterns in speech.
English is said to be stress-timed.
Phonetic expression of stress in English.
Is complex and involves several supra-segmental features:
Pitch prominence : accented syllables carry the main changes of voice pitch in the utterance.
Loudness : stressed syllables are louder.
Length : stressed syllables are longer in duration.
Gestural magnitude : Length and loudness differences may reflect a common factor that prominent syllables are produced with larger articulatory and vocal gestures, which resist reduction and coarticulation effects – properties of unstressed syllables.
Tone languages use voice pitch (and possibly voice quality) to make lexical contrasts (to distinguish words).
The domain of tone is the syllable (Hence tone is a supra-segmental feature).
The number of tones a language uses is quite limited.
Tone and word stress tend to be ‘competing’ prosodic systems.
Vietnamese tones 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 a á à ạ ả ã
Types of tone language
(Standard) Chinese and Vietnamese are examples of contour tone languages.
Their tones are made up of dynamic voice pitch changes (along with voice quality).
Register tone languages (predominating in Africa) have level tones, usually in just two pitch registers: high and low.
A West African register tone language
Tone and word stress
May be regarded as competing systems of word prosody. Why might this be so?
The phonetic features which carry tone and stress are similar.
Tonal contrasts and stress contrasts may make competing requirements on the speech mechanism.
In English, there is only one accent bearing syllable per word. Some syllables undergo reduction.
Stress contrasts exist between syllables in different positions in a word: permit per mit
In Vietnamese, every syllable carries a tone. Syllables are not reduced.
Tone contrasts would be threatened by syllable reduction.
Does Vietnamese have word stress? A controversial issue.
The melody of a phrase or whole utternace.
What would an utterance sound like without its intonation contour?
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush .
This utterance was generated by a speech synthesiser, where voice pitch can be separately controled from other parameters of speech production.
Changes in voice pitch are the main phonetic cue for intonation.
But the duration and pausing pattern in an utterance are also crucial cues for intonation.
The elements of an intonation contuour
The major pitch peaks and voice pitch changes, which are known as ‘accents’ .
The shape and location of these accents.
The relative duration of segments and the location of pauses (junctures).
bird hand two bush Voice pitch trace spectrogram
Meaning and the shape of pitch accents
The meaning of a pitch accent will be strongly affected by the context in which it appears.
But some generalizations can be made about the meanings of basic accent types:
yes yes yes yes yes
fall low rise level high rise risefall
‘ agree’ ‘go on’ bored surprise insist
‘ assert’ impatient question
Functions of intonation: What does intonation do?
Illocutionary : marking speaker’s attitude and intended purpose of the utterance.
Asserting, pleading, insisting, inquiring,…
Demarcative : marking phrase boundaries.
Related to syntactic parsing, identifying phrase boundaries
Highlighting : marking ‘new’ or ‘important’ information.
When a topic is first introduced into discourse, it is likely to be placed at the intonational centre of the phrase, to be thus highlighted to draw the listener’s attention. On subsequent mention, the item shifts out of intonational focus. It is now old information .
Some intonational contrasts to analyse
Would you like tea or coffee? A: B:
A lion is a mammal. A: B:
Your mom will marry a lawyer.
Go on. A: B:
When danger threatens your children call the police. A: B: