new paper on focus and phrasing

Wagner, Michael and McAuliffe, Michael (2019). The effect of focus prominence on phrasing. Journal of Phonetics 77. [doi] [preprint]

Abstract

Prosody simultaneously encodes different kinds of information about an utterance, including the type of speech act (which, in English, often affects the choice of intonational tune), the syntactic constituent structure (which mainly affects prosodic phrasing), and the location of semantic focus (which mainly affects the relative prosodic prominence between words). The syntactic and semantic functional dimensions (speech act, constituency, focus) are orthogonal to each other, but to which extent their prosodic correlates are remains controversial. This paper reports on a production experiment that crosses these three dimensions to look for interactions, concentrating on interactions between focus prominence and phrasing. The results provide evidence that interactions are more limited than many current theories of sentence prosody would predict, and support a theory that keeps different prosodic dimensions representationally separate.

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