Acoustic Cues to Topic and Narrow Focus in Egyptian Arabic

Dina El Zarka, Barbara Schuppler, Francesco Cangemi


This study investigates acoustic cues (duration, scaling and alignment of peaks and valleys) to the prosodic realization of topics and narrow subject foci in a declarative SVO sentence in Egyptian Arabic. Morpho-syntactically identical sentences were elicited in appropriately designed contexts from 18 native speakers by means of a question-answer paradigm. The results show that the stressed syllable of a focused word is longer than the stressed syllable of the same word in topic condition. Additionally, the peaks of foci are generally scaled higher than those of topics. These differences clearly point to varying degrees of prosodic prominence. Furthermore, the alignment of the F0 peak and the subsequent low endpoint of a rising-falling tonal contour is earlier in foci than in topics, indicating that focus is signaled by an early sharp fall whereas the falling part of the tonal gesture starts later and is shallower in the case of a topic. Overall, our results suggest that narrow subject foci and topics tend to be associated with different pitch events.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1189

Cite as: Zarka, D.E., Schuppler, B., Cangemi, F. (2019) Acoustic Cues to Topic and Narrow Focus in Egyptian Arabic. Proc. Interspeech 2019, 1771-1775, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1189.


@inproceedings{Zarka2019,
  author={Dina El Zarka and Barbara Schuppler and Francesco Cangemi},
  title={{Acoustic Cues to Topic and Narrow Focus in Egyptian Arabic}},
  year=2019,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2019},
  pages={1771--1775},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1189},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1189}
}