Information structure and phrase length as predictors of AP-initial accents
Date of Issue2010
Congrès Mondial de Linguistique Française (2nd : 2010)
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This study addresses the relationship between information structure and prosodic form in French. More specifically, it tests whether phrase-initial accents (LHi) are associated with the left edge of contrastively focused constituents in wh-interrogatives. Since word length has also been correlated with LHi distribution (Astésano et al. 2007), the study further examines the relative contribution of constraints operating at two distinct levels: information structure and phonological structure. The results show that each set of constraints makes an independent contribution to the occurrence of LHi with no interaction. In other words, phrase-initial accents are more likely to occur on an accentual phrase when its left edge coincides with the left edge of a contrastively focused constituent, and more likely to occur on constituents with more syllables, but constituent length does not limit the extent to which phrase-initial accents mark contrast, or vice versa. By comparison, the distribution of AP phrase boundaries is not correlated with the left edge of contrastively focused constituents. The findings of this study represent the first quantitative description of focus realization in French in a non-corrective context. They establish a previously undocumented link between LHi and discourse-level meaning and have important implications for the possibility of an intermediate level of phrasing in the prosodic hierarchy.
© 2010 Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences.