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Area A - Prosodic prominence

Structural accounts of prosody emphasize relational dependencies between units within domains. Such relations usually imply hierarchical ordering of units, as in the case of stressed syllables within words, or of accented words within utterances. In addition to this structural sense, the notion of prominence has often been used with respect to why and how a particular unit “stands out”, acoustically or perceptually, among its neighbours in a given domain. This definition conflates both relatively context-free language-specific phenomena (e.g. BLACKbird vs. black BIRD) and devices manipulated by speakers in order to package information in a contextually appropriate way (e.g. I’m only CHATTING with Martha vs. I’m only chatting with MARTHA). In both cases, prosodically prominent units are often highlighted through a language-specific interplay of articulatory, acoustic and perceptual features.

The encoding and decoding of prominence involves context-derived expectations, phonological form-based expectations, and phonetic substance reflected in the speech signal. The relation between phonetic substance and meaning is intrinsically linked to phonological form, the latter building structural expectations and at the same time integrating information from the phonetic substance. The goal of Area A is to investigate prosodic expressions of prominence by focusing on how its encoding and decoding is employed in communication.

Projects in research area A