Testing the predictions of metrical theory: variability in reported word level-stress

Amelia Kimball, Jennifer Cole


There is wide agreement that the regular pattern of English word-level primary stress targets the right edge of the word, and that secondary stress can be analyzed with trochaic feet, resulting in alternating strong and weak syllables and avoiding two strong syllables next to one another (a clash). Yet empirical evidence for alternating stress patterns is limited, and studies of clash resolution through stress shift report conflicting results from acoustic measures (Shattuck-Hufnagel 1988,1991; Grabe and Warren 1995; Vogel, et al. 1995). We test the predictions of metrical theory by asking listeners to mark stressed syllables on a transcript as they listen to a phrase. Our results confirm that syllables at higher levels of metrical structure are more frequently marked, and strong and weak syllables usually alternate. However, our results also reveal variability in listenersÂ’ ratings, even for the subset of listeners who can correctly mark stressed syllables in individual words. This variability is not predicted by metrical theory, which assigns stress deterministically. Instead, our data suggests that the projection of word-level stresses in phrasal contexts results in clash, and clash resolution is stochastic, with listeners differing in their tolerance for clash, and in the locations where clash is perceptually resolved.


Cite as

Kimball, A., Cole, J. (2016) Testing the predictions of metrical theory: variability in reported word level-stress. Proc. Speech Prosody 2016, (abstract).

Bibtex
@inproceedings{Kimball+2016,
author={Amelia Kimball and Jennifer Cole},
title={Testing the predictions of metrical theory: variability in reported word level-stress},
year=2016,
booktitle={Speech Prosody 2016}
}