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Intonation and Syntax -- Another Point of View

Instructor: Philippe Martin

Course Description

Most if not all recent studies of sentence intonation adopt the theoretical views developed by Pierrehumbert-Beckman, including the ToBI set of notation tools to describe intonation events. We will depart from this dominant approaches to propose a different way to describe sentence intonation in languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, English and European and Brazilian Portuguese.

Our approach is equally based on the existence of a Prosodic Structure (PS) in the sentence, which entertains a sovereignty-association relationship with the syntactic structure. This means that the PS organizes units (the prosodic words) as the syntactic structure does organize syntactic units, but independently as it has to conform with its own constraint rules, such as a) a stress clash condition, b) a syntactic collision rule (that prevents two prosodic words dominated by distinct nodes in the syntactic structure to form a prosodic group), and c) a rhythmic rule (which plays an essential role in French for example).

The prosodic structure is not defined by specific motives, but rather by melodic movements located on stressed and final syllables (these two being merged in the case of French). Looking at these pitch movements, in the light of the possible effects of neutralization processes, we can clearly establish, based on numerous experimental data, grammars of intonation for various languages.

Examples of applications in speech synthesis and language teaching will also be discussed:

Course planning

1. Historical developments - ToBI or not ToBI

2. The Prosodic Structure - Properties and Constraints

3. Experimental Intonation Phonology - Acoustic analysis

4. Sentence modality, broad and narrow focus

5. Prosody and Syntax: Sovereignty - Association

6. Prosodic markers processes, Intonation grammar for English, French and other Romance Languages

7. Spontaneous Speech

8. Applications in speech synthesis and language teaching


Ladd, Robert (1996) "Intonation Phonology", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 334 p.

Martin, Ph. (1987) "Prosodic and Rhythmic Structures in French", Linguistics, 925-949.

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copyright 2002, Philippe Martin.
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