Representing Pitch Accents: A Case for Tonemes and Allo-Tones

Byron Ahn

Despite the general property of phonology (and perhaps all linguistic domains) that surface forms are not identical to mental representations, it seems much mainstream work on English intonation (e.g., in the ToBI framework) treats pitch accents differently. In particular, it seems to be generally assumed that the surface representation of a pitch accent simply is the mental representation of that pitch accent. By investigating the pitch accent manifestation for semantic focus in Yes/No Questions, we can find good evidence for a single underlying pitch accent toneme (/L*/) being realized as (at least) two allo-tones: [L*] and [H+L*]. This raises new possibilities in exploring tonal inventories. In particular, the discovery of an [H+L*] pitch accent in the acoustic signal above does not indicate that we need or want an /H+L*/ pitch accent in the tonal inventory of mainstream American English (cf. Beckman, Hirschberg, and Shattuck-Hufnagel 2006). Moreover, this approach may help resolve debates about whether or not H* and L+H* are the same or distinct pitch accents.

Cite as

Ahn, B. (2016) Representing Pitch Accents: A Case for Tonemes and Allo-Tones. Proc. Speech Prosody 2016, (abstract).

author={Byron Ahn},
title={Representing Pitch Accents: A Case for Tonemes and Allo-Tones},
booktitle={Speech Prosody 2016}