14thAnnual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association

Lyon, France
August 25-29, 2013

Prosody of Contrastive Focus in Estonian

Heete Sahkai, Mari-Liis Kalvik, Meelis Mihkla

Institute of the Estonian Language, Estonia

The study contributes to the cross-linguistic discussion on the prosodic correlates and categorial status of contrastive focus. It brings in data from Estonian, a flexible word order language where the prosodic expression of Information Structure has been very little studied. The study compares narrow contrastive focus with narrow and broad information focus in semi-spontaneous production data, examining word order, pitch accent types and distribution, word duration changes, and F0 values. Interestingly, neither contrastive nor information focus induces the expected word order changes. The examined phonological features, i.e. accent types and distribution, show some correlation with contrastive focus, but the strongest determinant of accent type is the position of focus (final vs. non-final). An interesting finding is that in parallel constructions with symmetric foci, the two foci tend to bear different accents. Duration changes distinguish between all three focus categories; interestingly, a three-way distinction between categories is obtained by way of different distributions of binary durational distinctions. F0 differences between conditions are significant only within certain informants and distinguish between contrastive and information focus only in non-final position; clause-finally, F0 distinguishes between broad and narrow information focus.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Sahkai, Heete / Kalvik, Mari-Liis / Mihkla, Meelis (2013): "Prosody of contrastive focus in estonian", In INTERSPEECH-2013, 315-319.