A study of focus and accent in Singapore Malay
Date of Issue2012
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The syntactic focus-marking, like clefting, in Malay is limited to certain focus contexts. Hence, this motivates the belief that Malay adopts other strategies of focus-marking. Cross-linguistic research has provided ample evidence of intonation used as a focus-marking strategy, including Indonesian. Hence, this study aims to explore the relationship between focus and accent in Singapore Malay, and investigate if intonation is adopted as a possible strategy to mark focus. This study involved 12 Singaporean participants who are native speakers of Malay. They were recorded producing 20 target sentences, each corresponding to four focus conditions (i.e. all-focus, subject focus, verb-focus and VP-focus), presented in the discourse context of question-answer pairs. The F0 contours were visually inspected to identify the presence of accents. The findings suggest that an obligatorily accented subject and object are general characteristics of the intonation of Singapore Malay declaratives. There is a lack of one-to-one correspondence between focus and accent in Singapore Malay, thus further supporting its imperfect relationship, as evident in theories of focus and cross-linguistic research. This study suggests that intonation is a possible focus-marking strategy in Singapore Malay, and proposes a preliminary theory of focus to account for accenting patterns of the different contexts of focus.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University