Mainland southeast Asia

Marc Brunelle, James Kirby, Alexis Michaud, Justin Watkins

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Mainland Southeast Asia is often viewed as a linguistic area where five different language phyla – Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Hmong-Mien, Sino-Tibetan and Kra-Dai – have converged typologically. This chapter illustrates areal features found in their prosodic systems, but also emphasizes their oft-understated diversity.The first part of the chapter describes word level prosodic properties. A typology of word shapes and stress is first established: we revisit the concept of monosyllabicity, go over the notion of sesquisyllabicity (as typified by languages like Mon or Burmese) and discuss the realization of alternating stress in languages with polysyllabic words (such as Thai and Khmer). Special attention is then paid to tonation. Although many well-known languages of the area have sizeable inventories of complex tone contours, languages with few or no tones are common (20%being atonal). Importantly, the phonetic realization of tone frequently involves more than simply pitch: properties like phonation and duration often play a role in signaling tonal contrasts, along with less expected properties like onset voicing and vowel quality. We also show that complex tone alternations (spreading, neutralization and sandhi processes), although not typical, are well attested. The second part of the chapter addresses the less well-understood topic of phrasal prosody: prosodic phrasing and intonation. We reconsider the question of the amount of conventionalized intonation in languages with complex tone paradigms and pervasive final particles. We also show that information structure is often conveyed by means of overt markers and syntactic restructuring, but that it can also be marked by means of intonational strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Language Prosody
EditorsCarlos Gussenhoven, Aoju Chen
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198832232
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks
PublisherOxford University Press


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