Mind the Peak: When Museum is Temporarily Understood as Musical in Australian English

Katharina Zahner, Heather Kember, Bettina Braun


Intonation languages signal pragmatic functions (e.g. information structure) by means of different pitch accent types. Acoustically, pitch accent types differ in the alignment of pitch peaks (and valleys) in regard to stressed syllables, which makes the position of pitch peaks an unreliable cue to lexical stress (even though pitch peaks and lexical stress often coincide in intonation languages). We here investigate the effect of pitch accent type on lexical activation in English. Results of a visual-world eye-tracking study show that Australian English listeners temporarily activate SWW-words ( musical) if presented with WSW-words ( museum) with early-peak accents (H+!H*), compared to medial-peak accents (L+H*). Thus, in addition to signalling pragmatic functions, the alignment of tonal targets immediately affects lexical activation in English.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-839

Cite as: Zahner, K., Kember, H., Braun, B. (2017) Mind the Peak: When Museum is Temporarily Understood as Musical in Australian English. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 1223-1227, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-839.


@inproceedings{Zahner2017,
  author={Katharina Zahner and Heather Kember and Bettina Braun},
  title={Mind the Peak: When  Museum is Temporarily Understood as Musical in Australian English},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={1223--1227},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-839},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-839}
}