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Seeking an Anchorage. Stability and Variability in Tonal Alignment of Rising Prenuclear Pitch Accents in Cypriot Greek

Journal article
Authors Charalambos Themistocleous
Published in Language and Speech
Volume 59
Issue 4
Pages 433-461
ISSN 0023-8309
Publication year 2016
Published at
Pages 433-461
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1177/0023830915614602
Keywords prenuclear accent, pitch accents, intonation, alignment, Cypriot Greek
Subject categories General Language Studies and Linguistics, Linguistics, Phonetics

Abstract

Although tonal alignment constitutes a quintessential property of pitch accents, its exact characteristics remain unclear. This study, by exploring the timing of the Cypriot Greek L*+H prenuclear pitch accent, examines the predictions of three hypotheses about tonal alignment: the invariance hypothesis, the segmental anchoring hypothesis, and the segmental anchorage hypothesis. The study reports on two experiments: the first of which manipulates the syllable patterns of the stressed syllable, and the second of which modifies the distance of the L*+H from the following pitch accent. The findings on the alignment of the low tone (L) are illustrative of the segmental anchoring hypothesis predictions: the L persistently aligns inside the onset consonant, a few milliseconds before the stressed vowel. However, the findings on the alignment of the high tone (H) are both intriguing and unexpected: the alignment of the H depends on the number of unstressed syllables that follow the prenuclear pitch accent. The ‘wandering’ of the H over multiple syllables is extremely rare among languages, and casts doubt on the invariance hypothesis and the segmental anchoring hypothesis, as well as indicating the need for a modified version of the segmental anchorage hypothesis. To address the alignment of the H, we suggest that it aligns within a segmental anchorage–the area that follows the prenuclear pitch accent–in such a way as to protect the paradigmatic contrast between the L*+H prenuclear pitch accent and the L+H* nuclear pitch accent.

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