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The use and realisation of accentual focus in central Catalan with a comparison to English

Estebas-Vilaplana, Eva; (2000) The use and realisation of accentual focus in central Catalan with a comparison to English. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The aim of this thesis is threefold: 1) to investigate to what extent intonational (accentual) strategies are used in Central Catalan to signal the information structure of sentences as compared to syntactic devices, 2) to describe the phonetic and phonological properties of broad and narrow focus sentences in Central Catalan, and 3) to compare the results of Central Catalan with those of a language that mainly uses accentual focus, such as English. The first question is tested by means of a production test, a perception test and an acceptability test. Sentences produced with a broad focus and a narrow focus reading are analysed. Within narrow focus, two kinds of contexts are included: focus triggered by contrast and by identification. The results of the three tests show that Central Catalan speakers can both produce and recognise focus conveyed by intonational means and that the use of accentual devices is perceived as natural. The analysis and interpretation of the production data is done within the Autosegmental-Metrical framework of intonational analysis for both broad and narrow focus sentences. The results show that Central Catalan associates tonal primitives to metrically strong syllables and to the edges of three higher levels of prosodic structure: the accented word, the intermediate phrase and the intonation phrase. The accentual cues to signal narrow focus involve the location of a pitch accent on the stressed syllable of the focal element and the introduction of an intermediate phrase boundary at the end of the focal domain. The deaccentuation of postfocal material is optional and varies in form (from reduction to absence of pitch accent). Broad and narrow focus sentences use the same nuclear accent type. Scaling differences are not incorporated into the phonological system but are a matter of choice on the speaker's part (i.e. emphasis). Finally, the expression of focus in Central Catalan is similar to English in that the two languages use the same nuclear tone for both broad and narrow focus. However, differences in phrasing and in deaccenting are detected between the two languages. Whereas Central Catalan introduces a prosodic boundary after the focussed element and deaccenting is optional, no boundary is observed in English and deaccentuation is compulsory.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The use and realisation of accentual focus in central Catalan with a comparison to English
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Intonation
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10101438
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