Universal Tendencies for Cross-Linguistic Prosodic Tendencies: A Review and Some New Proposals

Jacqueline Vaissière


The present talk aims first to review the literature on similar tendencies regularly observed in typologically unrelated languages. The tendencies concern the use of fundamental frequency (F0, including declination line as the reference line, the top-line, up-stepping, down-stepping, register change and range widening-reducing), lengthening-shortening maneuvers and strengthening-weakening phenomena at the glottal and supraglottic levels, for instantiating acoustically the syllable, the word, the minor and major phrases, and the utterance. Our presentation concerns only attitudinally and emotionally neutral utterances. The second part of the talk will present particular aspects: 1) the different centers of articulatory “effort” at the syllable level; 2) the suggestion of the existence of an unmarked strong-long pattern, neither trochaic nor iambic, at the word level in languages where natives don’t have the consciousness of a “lexical stress,” or don’t agree on its existence or position; 3) the regrouping of one or more words into a prosodic phrase by the application of two established principles: a) the “hat-pattern” principle (t’Hart) favoring initial high-rising and final low-falling F0, and b) the intensive or the temporal rhythmic basic tendencies (Woodrow, Fraisse) favoring a more intense, stronger, more precisely articulated beginning and a lengthened ending; 4) the existence of a multilayer rhythm at the utterance level composed by the repetition/alternation of integrated Gestalts at the levels of the syllable, word, and phrases. One or two Gestalts will prevail perceptually depending on a) the language, b) the style, and c) the rate of speech. The impressionistic evidence of a particular type of language-dependent “rhythm” depends on the listener’s expectations, related to his maternal language and the languages he already masters, and up to a certain extent, to his pre-existing theoretical beliefs.


Cite as: Vaissière, J. (2018) Universal Tendencies for Cross-Linguistic Prosodic Tendencies: A Review and Some New Proposals. Proc. Interspeech 2018, 866.


@inproceedings{Vaissière2018,
  author={Jacqueline Vaissière},
  title={Universal Tendencies for Cross-Linguistic Prosodic Tendencies: A Review and Some New Proposals},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2018},
  pages={866}
}