The primacy of the rising/non-rising dichotomy in American English intonational tunes

Jennifer Cole, Jeremy Steffman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

In American English, phrase-final pitch trajectories have been described as resulting from a sequence of three tonal elements whose combinations define an inventory of phonologically contrastive nuclear tunes [1]. We investigate the distinctive status of nuclear tunes, testing imitative production of sentences paired with one of 8 nuclear tunes, and testing pairwise perceptual discrimination of the same tunes. Results from group- and individual-level clustering analyses of F0 trajectories of imitated tunes reveal maximally 5 distinct tunes, with the most robust distinctions between two tune classes: rising and non-rising. Converging results are obtained from perceptual discrimination. A further finding is that the phonetic distance between tunes is a good predictor of discrimination accuracy, but accuracy is better than predicted for pairwise discrimination across the rising/non-rising classes, and worse than predicted for tunes grouped together in the rising class. These results suggest a robustness hierarchy of tune distinctions with a primary rising/non-rising distinction. This hierarchy reflects holistic shape distinctions, but does not align with the proposed tripartite composition of tunes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 1st International Conference on Tone and Intonation
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • speech perception
  • speech prosody
  • contrastive vowel length
  • pitch accent
  • Tokyo Japanese


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