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ACOUSTIC EFFECTS OF FOCUS AND SENTENCE POSITION ON STRESS IN ENGLISH AND FRENCH

Dawn Behne

Ph.D. Dissertation, 1989

Abstract

Acoustic correlates of phrase-final and focal stress are reported for English and French. Both languages use sentence stress to mark a phrase boundary and provide focus to new information in the discourse. A production and a perception task were designed with two goals: (1) to describe the behavior of the acoustic signal when phrase-final and focal stress occur in the same sentence, and (2) to identify acoustic correlates of stress common to both functions of sentence stress in English and French. The results indicate the following: (1) the traditional acoustic correlates of stress are appropriate for English, but not for French, (2) an early maximum amplitude is correlated with both functions of sentence stress in both languages, (3) a falling amplitude contour is associated with stress in English and a falling fundamental frequency contour is associated with stress in French, and (4) the acoustic correlates of stress are additive when phrase-final and focal stress converge within a sentence in English and French. The results suggest the theoretical need to account for both functions of stress, and suggest the amplitude contour as an important acoustic correlate of stress.

 
 
Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison

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