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Focus, phrase length, and the distribution of phrase-initial rises in French


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This study addresses the relationship between information structure and intonation in French. More specifically, it tests whether phrase-initial rises (LHi) are associated with the left edge of contrastively focused constituents in wh-interrogatives. Since LHi distribution has also been correlated with length, 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, but with no interaction. In other words, LHi is more likely to occur at the left edge of a contrastive focus domain, and more likely to occur in longer phrases, though phrase length does not influence the extent to which LHi marks focus. The findings of this study represent the first quantitative assessment of focus realization in French in a non-corrective context, and establish a previously undocumented link between LHi and discourse-level meaning.
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Focus, phrase length, and the distribution of phrase-initial rises in French
James German 1, Mariapaola D'Imperio2
1 Laboratoire Parole et Langage (UMR 6057 CNRS), Aix-en-Provence, France
2 Aix-Marseille I & Laboratoire Parole et Langage (UMR 6057 CNRS), Aix-en-Provence, France,
This study addresses the relationship between information
structure and intonation in French. More specifically, it tests
whether phrase-initial rises (LHi) are associated with the left
edge of contrastively focused constituents in wh-
interrogatives. Since LHi distribution has also been correlated
with length, 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, but with no interaction.
In other words, LHi is more likely to occur at the left edge of a
contrastive focus domain, and more likely to occur in longer
phrases, though phrase length does not influence the extent to
which LHi marks focus. The findings of this study represent
the first quantitative assessment of focus realization in French
in a non-corrective context, and establish a previously
undocumented link between LHi and discourse-level meaning.
Index Terms: French, intonation, focus, information structure
1. Introduction
In French, utterances are parsed into a series of phrasal units,
which minimally consist of a prosodic word (typically a
content word plus zero or more associated functional items)
and define the domain of stress and tone assignment. It is
generally agreed that these units are obligatorily marked by a
prominent F0 rise near the end of the phrase, and optionally
include an additional F0 rise near the beginning of the phrase.
In this paper, we analyze the structure of these phrasal
units within the autosegmental framework of [1] and [2]. In
that framework, the structure of accentual phrases (APs) and
their constituent early and late rises can be described by a
sequence of high and low tones. The late rise, or final accent,
consists of a low plus a high tone (denoted by LH*) and is
associated to a metrically strong syllable that is typically the
last full syllable of the phrase (excluding word-final schwa).
The early rise, or initial rise, also involves a sequence of low
and high tones (denoted by LHi) but is doubly associated to a
syllable near the beginning of the phrase (typically either the
first or second syllable of the first content word occurring in
the phrase) as well as to the left edge of the AP [3]. Since
LH* is obligatory, a minimal AP consists of the LH*
sequence, while a maximal AP would consist of the sequence
LHiLH* (see Figure 1). Other well-formed and attested
sequences include LLH*, LHiH* and HiLH*.
It is generally accepted for many languages that
utterances may be partitioned into information that is part of a
background, in the sense of being shared by interlocutors, and
information that is part of a focus, in the sense of being
presented by the speaker as either novel or contrastive. In
French, the extent to which such a partition is reflected in the
prosodic signal has not been fully resolved. Previous work in
this regard emphasizes the role of contrast in emphatic or
corrective contexts. Typically, the focused element is said to
be marked by a single rising-falling contour, which is distinct
in various respects from either the early or late rise, and which
may be realized on either final or non-final syllables in the
phrase. For [4], for example, this is the accent d'insistance.
For [1] and [2], it is the focus accent, or Hf, which they show
experimentally to consist of a rise that is both higher and
aligned later than a typical AP-final accent in a broad focus
context. The region following the contrastive element, or the
post-focal region, is often characterized by the absence of
prominent pitch movements [1, 4, 5, 6]. The pre-focal region,
by comparison, retains the early and late rises associated with
rhythmically regular phrasing and in this sense is not
markedly different from the broad focus pattern, though there
is some evidence that this region may be associated with a
compressed pitch range [1, 5, 7] and a reduced number of
phrase boundaries [7]. [8] explores the marking of focus in
question-answer contexts. While no quantitative findings are
presented, the study suggests an overall tendency for a focus
to be phrased as a single unit. The pre-focal region also shows
this tendency, though a syntactic subject is generally phrased
separately regardless of its relationship to the focus.
Figure 1: F0 trace, spectrogram and intonation labels for one
speaker's production of a target sentence (PP-focus long).
It is generally agreed that the transition from the focal
region to the post-focal region is readily identified in French
on the basis of post-focal deaccenting (for polar interrogatives,
a high plateau). The extent to which the left edge of a focus
region is prosodically marked, however, remains an open
question. In general, the pre-focal and focal regions are
regularly phrased into APs (subject to conditions of rhythm
and syntax). Therefore, the transition between them cannot be
reliably identified on the basis of LH* alone. Given the
tendency for foci to be phrased as a unit [8], however, an
extended stretch of unaccented material might in principle
serve to mark a kind of minimum boundary for the leftward
extension of a focused region. Assuming probabilistic
constraints on the maximum size of a phrase, however, such
outputs are predicted to be dispreferred for larger foci except
in very fast speech. It remains to be tested, therefore, whether
other intonational features might serve to mark this boundary.
Widespread agreement on the prosodic hierarchy of
French is limited to the distinction between a single lower
level unit and a single higher level unit (e.g., the accentual
hal-00541970, version 1 - 1 Dec 2010
Author manuscript, published in "International Conference on Speech Prosody, Chicago : United States (2010)"
phrase and intonational phrase, respectively). A number of
recent studies, however, have raised the possibility that an
intermediate level of phrasing exists for French, which may be
recruited for demarcative functions at the level of syntactic or
pragmatic constituency. [9] and [10], for example, provide
evidence for an intermediate level of phrasing at the boundary
between a syntactic subject and a VP, whose domain is
marked by systematic tonal scaling relationships between the
F0 peaks of its constituent AP-final accents. Moreover, [11]
show that the distribution of initial rises (initial accent or IA in
that work) is correlated with syntactic constituency for
contrasts involving attachment ambiguities. Thus, for the
sequence les bagatelles et les balivernes saugrenues ('the
crazy trifles and nonsense') the adjective saugrenues ('crazy')
may be interpreted as modifying only the second NP (1a), or
as modifying both the first and second NPs (1b).
(1) a. [les bagatelles] [et les balivernes saugrenues]
b. [les bagatelles et les balivernes] [saugrenues]
Higher rates of initial rises were observed on the adjective
when taking wide scope (1b), suggesting that this feature is
recruited to mark the stronger syntactic boundary occurring
between the second NP and the adjective in that case.
Correspondingly, more initial rises were observed at the left
edge of the second NP when the strong syntactic boundary
occurs at the NP1-NP2 juncture (1a). The authors suggest that
this correlation may reflect a more general tendency for initial
rises to mark an intermediate level of phrasing, which may in
turn be sensitive to constituency in other domains.
If [11]'s suggestion is correct, then there is reason to
suspect that the distribution of initial rises may be linked to
information structural boundaries. Indeed, [12] found
evidence that initial rises are more likely to occur in APs
whose left edge coincides with the left edge of a focus region.
The current study addresses this issue directly through a
controlled production experiment involving wh-interrogatives
with focus domains of varying sizes. In contrast to earlier
studies, the materials used in this study were not designed to
evoke corrective or emphatic meaning. Thus, the feature
being targeted in our study is not the accent d'insistance of [4]
or Hf of [1] and [2], which generally occurs alone within an
AP, but the initial rise (LHi), whose distribution is limited to
phrases which also bear a final accent (LH*).
We hence assume a notion of contrastive focus in which
a set of two or more closely related utterances are partitioned
into information that is either shared or not shared between
them. We further assume that such interpretations are likely
to occur in contexts in which sets of utterances related in this
way are uttered in close sequence. Contrastive focus is
typically discussed in connection with declarative utterances,
though theories of focus interpretation typically extend readily
to other types of utterances including interrogatives [13, 14].
For the current study, it is sufficient to assume that a series of
question-answer pairs like those in (2) is predicted to induce a
focus partitioning as indicated by F-marking.
(2) A: Who wrote [the music]F for South Pacific?
B: Rodgers.
A: Who wrote [the lyrics]F for South Pacific?
B: Hammerstein.
We now turn to the distributional properties of initial
rises. The initial rise has often been characterized as optional,
since APs are frequently observed without it. Known
predictors of its occurrence, however, include speaking rate,
number of syllables in the phrase [1, 2, 15], and
morphological status (e.g., content versus function word).
[11] found a simultaneous association to syntactic
constituency and number of syllables in the phrase, which
they take as evidence that the demarcative function of initial
rises is first and foremost a prosodic one. Building on their
model, then, our study seeks to characterize the distribution of
initial rises along two dimensions. In addition to testing for an
association with the left edge of focus, we simultaneously
varied the length, in number of syllables, of the word units
being phrased into APs. [16] show that in English,
probabilistic constraints on the accentability of certain part-of-
speech categories lead to a reduced tendency for nuclear
accent placement to encode focus. If it is the case that phrase
length represents a similarly probabilistic constraint on the
realization of initial rises, such that phrases with fewer
syllables are less likely to include them, then one conceivable
outcome is that phrase length and focus will interact as
predictors of initial rise. When a phrase is very small, for
example, then initial rise may be so dispreferred that focus
will have little effect on the likelihood of its occurrence. In
the extreme case, initial rises on one-syllable phrases may not
be well-formed. By comparison, longer phrases may actually
require initial rises for rhythmic or structural reasons [17], and
thus the occurrence of initial rise may be insensitive to focus
in a different way.
In summary, our study seeks to address the following
questions. First, to what extent is the left edge of a contrastive
focus region systematically marked in French, and what role
does initial rise play in this encoding? Second, what are the
factors affecting the distribution of initial rises? Are they truly
'optional' as is often assumed, or can the variability in their
distribution be explained by constituency at other levels of
description? Finally, to what extent do constraints from
distinct levels of the grammar (i.e., prosody and information
structure) interact? Do they make equal contributions to the
likelihood that initial rise will occur, or do constraints from
one level interfere with the ability of initial rise to encode
constituency at another level?
2. Methods
2.1. Materials
The materials in our study consisted of 24 pairs of subject-
extracted wh-interrogative sentences beginning with the word
qui 'who'. Crucially, these included a direct object consisting
of a noun phrase followed by a prepositional phrase. The
noun phrase and the prepositional phrase each consisted of a
single functional item (either an article, a preposition or a
prepositional contraction) followed by a noun. Each target
sentence then occurred in one of two versions, according to
the constituent length of the second noun (underlined): either
short (2 syllables) as in (3a) or long (4 syllables) as in (3b).
Target sentences in a pair were identical in all other respects.
(3) a. Qui a commandé le merlan aux navets ce soir?
'Who ordered the whiting with turnips this evening?'
b. Qui a commandé le merlan aux macadamias ce soir?
'Who ordered the whiting with macadamias this evening?'
Target sentences were produced as the second of a series
of three information-seeking questions. Thus, as outlined in
Section 1, specific patterns of focus were induced by
manipulating the scope of correspondence between the target
sentence and the questions occurring before and after it. In
the DO-focus condition (4), for example, the domain of the
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focus is predicted to be the entire direct object (DO), since the
surrounding context suggests that the DO is the relevant point
of contrast. In the PP-focus condition (5), the domain of focus
is limited to the prepositional phrase. Thus, each item set
occurred in four conditions: DO-Focus/short, DO-Focus/long,
PP-Focus/short and PP-Focus/long.
(4) DO-Focus (short)
i. Qui a commandé l'entrecôte ce soir?
'Who ordered the rib steak this evening?'
ii. Qui a commandé [le merlan aux navets]F ce soir?
'Who ordered the whiting with turnips this evening?'
iii. Qui a commandé les gambas ce soir?
'Who ordered the shrimp this evening?'
(5) PP-Focus (short)
i. Qui a commandé le merlan à la sauce citron ce soir?
'Who ordered the whiting with lemon sauce this evening?'
ii. Qui a commandé le merlan [aux navets]F ce soir?
'Who ordered the whiting with turnips this evening?'
iii. Qui a commandé le merlan aux câpres ce soir?
'Who ordered the whiting with capers this evening?'
The resulting 96 experimental items were divided among four
versions balanced for condition. 10 filler items, consisting of
a variety of question types (including polar, object-extracted
wh-, etc.) were included as distractors.
2.2. Procedures
Participants were seated in a sound-attenuated booth with a
conversational partner (native speaker of French). They were
asked to pose each question to their partner "as naturally as
possible" and then record the response on a sheet of paper.
Preceding each item, a short context was read aloud by the
participant. This served both to fix the interpretation of the
lexical items comprising the targets and to help the
participants situate themselves in the speaking role.
Recorded target sentences were aligned at the level of
words, syllables and phonemes using EasyAlign [18]. Target
sentences were labeled by the authors for the presence and
syllable association of the following features:
AP-final accent on the lexical verb (V)
Initial rise on the first NP (I1)
AP-final accent on the first NP (F1)
Initial rise on the second NP, within the PP (I2)
AP-final accent on the PP (F2)
There is generally good agreement regarding the
identification of AP-final accents in French. It is widely
assumed, for example, that they are characterized by a
prominent F0 rise that reaches a peak at or near the end of the
final full syllable of a content word. Typically, syllables
bearing a final accent also have longer rhyme durations [19].
Identification of final rises was therefore based primarily on a
combination of pitch track inspection and coder assessment of
overall prominence. Only prominent rises in word-final
positions were counted as final accents, allowing for the
possibility that F0 peaks may occur just after the end of the
AP-final syllable.
There is less agreement regarding the identification of
initial rises. Since initial rises are typically not associated
with rhyme lengthening, overall prominence is not a reliable
measure. Furthermore, the pitch movements associated with
initial rises may be less marked than for final accents, and
may therefore be difficult to distinguish from perturbances in
the rises or falls of adjacent final accents. We therefore took a
conservative approach, counting as initial rises only those F0
movements that bore clear evidence of an independent high
tonal event. In general, this means that qualifying features
included a rise from an identifiable low target, followed by a
trough preceding an ascent to the peak of a following final
accent (i.e., the characteristic LHiLH* pattern of [1] and [2]).
Rises preceding a final accent were counted as initial rises if
they minimally reached a peak or plateau early in the
associated syllable and showed evidence of a subsequent fall
that could not be explained by microprosodic perturbances.
Rises following a final accent of the previous AP were
counted as initial rises if the peak of the preceding final accent
was reached within the AP-final syllable, and either (i) a
second peak was reached or (ii) there was a stable plateau
extending from the peak of a preceding final accent more than
50% of the way into the following syllable. Initial rises are
typically associated with the first or second syllable of the first
content word within an AP [15], though it has been informally
noted that they may also occur on a function word preceding
the first content word. Initial rises meeting the above criteria
were observed in all three positions (i.e., function word, first
syllable, and second syllable of the content word).
2.3. Participants
Two male and two female speakers participated in this
task either voluntarily or for pay. All were first language
native speakers of a continental variety of French.
3. Results
Speakers produced a wide range of patterns in the target
region, though a final accent occurred on V in approximately
90% of all productions, and a final accent occurred on F2 in
95% of productions. Thus, most of the variability concerned
the status of I1, F1 and I2. Overall, initial rises occurred at I1
in 21% of all productions, and 75% of these occurred on the
first syllable of the noun, while 25% occurred on the function
word. Final accents occurred on F1 in 84% of productions.
Finally, initial rises occurred on I2 in 39% of all productions.
Of these, 38% occurred on the first syllable of the noun, 51%
occurred on the second syllable of the noun, and 11%
occurred on the function word.
PPfocus(narrow) DOfocus(wide)
Figure 2: Percentage of targets bearing initial rise at I1
by Focus and Constituent Length.
Initial rises were more frequent at I1 when this coincided
with a focus left edge (DO-Foc: 32%, PP-Foc: 18%) and when
the second noun was short (2-syllable: 37%, 4-syllable: 15%),
though as Figure 2 suggests, the effect of Focus appears to be
larger when the second noun is long. A mixed effects linear
regression analysis (treating Focus and Length as fixed effects
and items as random effects) found Length, but not Focus, to
be significantly correlated with the likelihood of initial rise at
I1 (p<0.05) with no interaction.
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At I2, initial rises were more frequent when a focus edge
occurred there, but in comparison to I1, they were also more
frequent when the second noun was long (2-syllable: 30%, 4-
syllable: 83%). A second regression analysis found both
effects to be significant at the p<0.05 and p<0.1 levels,
respectively. As with I1, there was no significant interaction
of Focus and Length, suggesting that each factor makes an
independent contribution to the likelihood of an initial rise.
PPfocus(narrow) DOfocus(wi de)
Figure 3: Percentage of targets bearing initial rise at I2
by Focus and Constituent Length.
4. Discussion
The above findings establish a new link between initial rises
in French and the marking of information structure.
Specifically, they suggest that initial rises may serve to mark
the left edge of contrastive focus regions, given that this
transition is otherwise obscured by the occurrence of
rhythmically regular phrasing into APs. Initial rises were not
reliably linked in our study to focus edge marking at the verb-
DO boundary, though the trend in the data suggests that this
association may be supported by further data collection.
Alternatively, this could be due to other factors. First of all,
with respect to the presence of a focus edge, the experimental
manipulation differed for this position (I1) as compared to the
DO-internal position (I2). At I2, the experiment manipulated
whether the relevant position was at a focus left edge or
internal to the focus, while at I1, the experiment manipulated
whether that location was at a focus left edge or external to it
(i.e., in the pre-focal domain). Second, the two positions
differed in terms of the syntactic boundary that was present. It
remains to be tested, for example, whether the juncture
between a verb and a direct object enforces special constraints
on prosodic structure that may impact the amount of
variability that is permitted with regard to early rises.
An additional issue concerns the detection of initial rises.
In this study, a conservative method was used that relied
primarily on inspection of the F0 contour. As noted earlier,
however, the effect of initial rises on the F0 contour may be
concealed by the effects of adjacent rises. As a result, some
initial rises may have gone undetected. Indeed, this is
consistent with the authors' impressions: there were many
cases where other acoustic properties of the syllable suggested
the presence of an initial rise, but the associated position could
not be labeled as such since it did not meet the established
criteria. An additional correlate of initial rise appears to be
lengthening of the onset of the associated syllable. Thus a
more sensitive coding system would take into account the
effect of initial rise in multiple acoustic dimensions.
By another measure, the reliability of our coding system
is supported by the fact that a significant correlation was
found between the prosodic features being measured, and a
known predictor of initial rise (i.e., phrase length). In other
words, there is good evidence in our data that the prosodic
features our study links with focus left edges correspond to the
same category treated elsewhere as initial rises.
Our study addresses the association between initial rises
and focus in production, but additional research is needed to
determine whether this association is utilized in perception.
Finally, while it has been suggested that the demarcative
function for initial rise is mediated by an intermediate level of
phrasing, this study does not address this issue directly.
Additional research is needed to determine whether
independent evidence for intermediate phrase constituency
can be linked to the type of alignment with information
structure discussed here.
5. References
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[3] Welby, P., "The realization of early and late rises in French
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[10] D’Imperio, M. and Michelas, A. “Mapping syntax onto prosodic
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initial accent placement in French". Language and Speech, 50(3),
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[12] German, J., and D'Imperio, M., "Information structure and the
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[13] Rooth, M. "A theory of focus interpretation". Natural Language
Semantics, 1: 75-116, 1992.
[14] Schwarzschild, R. "Givenness, AvoidF and other constraints on
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[15] Welby, P., "French intonational structure: Evidence from tonal
alignment". Journal of Phonetics, 34: 343-371, 2006.
[16] German, J., Pierrehumbert, J. and Kaufmann, S., "Evidence for
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[18] Goldman, Jean-Phillippe. EasyAlign v26.08.07. Downloaded
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[19] Pasdeloup, V., “Modèle de règles rythmiques du français
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hal-00541970, version 1 - 1 Dec 2010
... Jun and Fougeron 2000; Welby 2002) does not appear to be restricted to the left edge of a Maximal Projection, but can occur towards the left edge of an argument that is part of a complex syntactic constituent, when focus is restricted to a single lexical item. Specifically, recent evidence (German and D'Imperio 2010) suggests that initial LHi rises mark the left edge of contrastive focus regions in French (see LHi on marron in upper panel of Figure 2), but that the probability of LHi also increases with phrase length. In other words, both phrase length and focus scope appear to be the relevant, additive factors for the appearance of an initial rise, and thus it is unlikely that LHi is a focus marker in the traditional sense. ...
... On the other hand, a phrasing or edge-based approach that emphasizes the comparative lack of intonational "marking" in French as compared with Germanic languages, for example, has too little to say about the role of post-focal deaccenting on the one hand, and the complex distribution of LHi on the other. The point we wish to highlight here is that the type of data that will eventually lead to an adequate model of prosody and information structure in French will need to take into account both issues simultaneously by, for example, establishing the relative effect size of factors from different levels of description within the same study, following the precedent of Astésano et al. (2007), German and D'Imperio (2010), and others. Moving forward, then, our approach seeks an integrated model that takes into account both types of descriptions, as well as any additional interdepencies that they bring to the problem. ...
Full-text available
Much recent work on German and English intonation has addressed the impact of information structure on prosodic patterns in terms of the focus/background partition. In contrast with stress-accent languages such as Italian, Spanish or English, French does not appear to signal focus through pitch accent assignment, rather it appears to mainly exploit prosodic edge marking for the same purposes. The fact that prosodic phrasing is highly sensitive to focus structure is not only true for French, but also for pitch accent languages such as Japanese and Basque (see Gussenhoven 2004 for a discussion), as well as for stress-accent languages (Beckmann & Pierrehumbert 1986). A previous analysis (Féry 2001) has proposed that French largely exploits phrasing in order to signal focus, and that narrow and contrastive focus "lead to an initial boundary tone, usually high". Here we attempt to build on Féry's insight by showing that, while phrasing is one of the strategies that French adopts in order to signal focus, phrasing cues are different when either the left or the right edge of the focal domain are taken into account. Our findings show that initial LHi rises are associated with the left edge of contrastive focus regions in French, and may therefore serve an important marking function. Crucially, phrase length also contributed to the distribution of LHi, suggesting a probabilistic integration of factors from different levels.
... cted the realization of an Hi on one of the first syllables of the non-finite verb. In principle, an initial accent on the non-finite verb could occur in VF and NVF cases alike, given that the focal domain starts at the auxiliary in both contexts. In other words, the auxiliary should be located at the left-edge of a focused AP in both contexts (cf. German & D'Imperio, 2010). We tested whether in cases with an Hi on the non-finite verb, speakers realize an Hf to distinguish VF from NVF contexts and if so, where they locate Hf (on Hi and/or on H*). Our focus is hence on the prosodic realization of the verb construction (the finite verb followed by the non-finite verb). ...
... Kappa Coefficient of Agreement of 0.93 (SD = 0.04) for the categories LH*, LHiH*, HiLH*, LHiL* (see letters a, c, d, e inTable 5). For the object noun, Kappa was 0.79 (SD = 0.11) for the accentual realizations HiLL%, LHiL% and Unaccented. On the basis of previous studies reporting the presence of initial accents on the left-edge of focused APs (cf. German & D'Imperio, 2010), we investigated their occurrence in both conditions. Furthermore, we tested whether their location (i.e. on the auxiliary or on one of the first syllables of the non-finite verb) is influenced by pragmatic condition. For the identification of initial accents, we largely followed the criteria defined by German and D'Imperio (2010) . In ...
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German and French differ in a number of aspects. Regarding the prosody-pragmatics interface, German is said to have a direct focus-to-accent mapping, which is largely absent in French--owing to strong structural constraints. We used a semi-spontaneous dialogue setting to investigate the intonational marking of Verum Focus, a focus on the polarity of an utterance in the two languages (e.g. the child IS tearing the banknote as an opposite claim to the child is not tearing the banknote). When Verum Focus applies to auxiliaries, pragmatic aspects (i.e. highlighting the contrast) directly compete with structural constraints (e.g. avoiding an accent on phonologically weak elements such as monosyllabic function words). Intonational analyses showed that auxiliaries were predominantly accented in German, as expected. Interestingly, we found a high number of (as yet undocumented) focal accents on phrase-initial auxiliaries in French Verum Focus contexts. When French accent patterns were equally distributed across information structural contexts, relative prominence (in terms of peak height) between initial and final accents was shifted towards initial accents in Verum Focus compared to non-Verum Focus contexts. Our data hence suggest that French also may mark Verum Focus by focal accents but that this tendency is partly overridden by strong structural constraints.
... First, we manipulated the length and syntactic structure of subject NPs to obtain target phrases whose final syllable is predicted, in an unmarked discourse context, to coincide with either an AP-, ip-, or IP-level boundary. Second, we induced specific patterns of focus (all focus vs. narrow focus) by manipulating answers located before and after target answers in series of three (see also German & D'Imperio, 2010). 24 native speakers of French took part in the experiment as interviewees. ...
Conference Paper
In contrast with stress-accent languages, French does not signal focus through pitch accent assignment, rather it largely exploits phrasing (Féry, 2001; D'Imperio et al. 2012). In this study, we used a new experimental paradigm to collect semi-spontaneous data and test the strength of the prosodic boundary located at the right edge of focused elements. In line with our minimum prosodic size domain hypothesis for contrastive focus in French, the results indicated that an ip-boundary is required at the right edge of a contrastively focused constituent.
... o. Grammont, 1933;Martin, 1975, Rossi, 1980Dell, 1984;Mertens, 1990), and it has been claimed that it plays a role in information structure marking (German and D'Imperio, 2010;Beyssade et al., 2011). Since the initial rise is independently controlled and does not generally involve the shaping of the contour we will have nothing further to say about it in the rest of the paper. ...
The aim of this study was to test if the meaning of intonational contours involves speaker commitment and attitude attribution to the addressee. We examined whether the pragmatic choice of a contour signals how the speaker (S) anticipates the reaction of the addressee (A) to his utterance by attributing attitudes to him and calling for his next move. We focused on four French contours (a fall L*L%, a rise H*H%, a rise-fall H*L% and a rise-fall-rise H+!H*H%). In an original forced-choice interpretation task, participants heard sentences carrying one of the contours and had to choose among four possible reactions chosen for their hypothetical link to the contour meanings (I get it; I’ve no idea; I guess you’re right; No, really, it's true). The results show that L*L% was consistently associated with “I get it”, confirming that A did not know proposition p before and signaling that p was added to the common ground, H*H% with “I’ve no idea”, which rejects S's attribution to A of knowledge about p, and H+!H*H% with “No, really, it's true”, which signals that A actually believes p while S does not. They give experimental support to the view that intonational meaning is dialogical.
... However, one could argue that the same relationship between contrastive discourse status and the Accentual- Phrase right boundary could be found in a non IP-final position in French in a context in which the acoustic properties of the pitch accent are not superimposed with the acoustic properties of the boundary tone. Note also that prosodic cues such as the presence of an initial accent which is associated to the left edge of the AP could also mark the phrasing of the word " Mariloup " separately from the rest of the utterance (see for instance Beyssade et al., 2009; German and D'Imperio, 2010; D'Imperio et al., 2012). Individuals with schizophrenia (SZ) experience deficits in social cognition, resulting in theory of mind (ToM) impairments and communication disorders (Brüne, 2005; Sprong et al., 2007; Green et al., 2008). ...
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Patients with schizophrenia (SZ) often display social cognition disorders, including Theory of Mind (ToM) impairments and communication disruptions. Thought language disorders appear to be primarily a disruption of pragmatics, SZ can also experience difficulties at other linguistic levels including the prosodic one. Here, using an interactive paradigm, we showed that SZ individuals did not use prosodic phrasing to encode the contrastive status of discourse referents in French. We used a semi-spontaneous task to elicit noun-adjective pairs in which the noun in the second noun-adjective fragment was identical to the noun in the first fragment (e.g., BONBONS marron “brown candies” vs. BONBONS violets “purple candies”) or could contrast with it (e.g., BOUGIES violettes “purple candles” vs. BONBONS violets “purple candies”). We found that healthy controls parsed the target noun in the second noun-adjective fragment separately from the color adjective, to warn their interlocutor that this noun constituted a contrastive entity (e.g., BOUGIES violettes followed by [BONBONS] [violets]) compared to when it referred to the same object as in the first fragment (e.g., BONBONS marron followed by [BONBONS violets]). On the contrary, SZ individuals did not use prosodic phrasing to encode contrastive status of target nouns. In addition, SZ's difficulties to use prosody of contrast were correlated to their score in a classical ToM task (i.e., the hinting task). Taken together, our data provide evidence that SZ patients exhibit difficulties to prosodically encode discourse statuses and sketch a potential relationship between ToM and the use of linguistic prosody.
... BEAUjolais nouVEAU, 10: 41). Previous studies have shown that initial accents occur often (along with final accents) at the left-edge of an AP in presence of a pragmatic contrast [11]. A similar feature (the so-called C-accent) is produced in specific cases of contrastive topics [12], although this observation requires more systematic evidence. ...
Conference Paper
This study compares rising contours produced in the context of contrastive topics by French natives and by low and high proficient learners of French with German as mother tongue. Results show a systematic pattern for French natives who mostly produced a final rise LH*, and hardly ever a bridge accent on the whole phrase. Our results on French natives seem to support earlier claims that tonal patterns with late dip alignments may be recruited for encoding contrast meaning. Results on French learners show a development in the acquisition of the prosody-semantics mapping principles (shifting the accent position from the phrase-initial mon to the phrase-final image) and, not surprisingly, differences in the phonetic implementation of the final rises. Crucially, the impact of phonological and phonetic transfer is more complex than expected: text-to-tune associations are not easy to re-programme when a new accent location has to be learnt.
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Background/aims: In French, the size of a focus constituent is not reliably marked through pitch accent assignment as in many stress accent languages. While it has been argued that the distribution of lower-level prosodic boundaries plays a role, this is at best a weak cue to focus, leaving open the question of whether other marking strategies are available. In this study, we assess whether the right edge of a contrastive focus constituent is marked by differences in prosodic boundary strength. Methods: We elicited utterances with target words in six combinations of focus and syntactic contexts using an interactive production task. Results: The results show that if a given location is realized as an accentual phrase boundary in an all-focus context, then it is realized as an intermediate phrase boundary when it coincides with the right edge of a narrow-focus constituent. A location that is an intermediate phrase boundary in an all-focus context, however, remains unchanged under narrow focus. Conclusion: These findings suggest that focus constituents are constrained to align with a minimum prosodic domain size in French (i.e., the intermediate phrase), and that French does not rely on a general strategy of prosodic enhancement for marking focus.
In this chapter, we provide empirical evidence on the prosodic marking of information focus (IF) in French. We report results from an elicitation experiment and two perception experiments. Based on these experiments, we propose that phrases that resolve a question are set off by two types of intonational markers in French: they host the nuclear pitch accent (NPA) on their right edge and/or they are intonationally highlighted by an initial rise (IR). These intonational markers are very often realized conjointly but can also be applied separately thus leading to considerable variation in our elicitation data. We will propose that some of the variation can be explained by differences in the function of NPA and IR: NPA placement is sensitive to the informational/illocutionary partitioning of the content of utterances, while IRs are sensitive to different types of semantic or pragmatic salience. We also suggest that “question/answer” pairs provide a criterion to identify the IF only if the answer is congruent. Answers may, however, contribute to implicit questions resulting in different prosodic realizations.
Conference Paper
In contrast with stress-accent languages, French does not signal focus through pitch accent assignment, rather it largely exploits phrasing (Féry, 2001; D'Imperio, German & Michelas, 2012). In this study, we used a new experimental paradigm to collect semi-spontaneous data and test the strength of the prosodic boundary located at the right edge of focused elements. French represents an anomaly among the Romance group because stress is specified at the phrasal level and its location is not contrastive. Given that stress is phrase-final, accentuation and phrasal boundaries always coincide. Two prosodic levels are widely accepted for French: the Intonation Phrase (IP) and the Accentual Phrase (AP; Jun & Fougeron 2002; Post, 2000), while recent studies (D'Imperio & Michelas, 2010; Michelas, 2011) provide evidence for an additional level of phrasing intermediate to these two, which appears in unmarked syntactic structures, usually between a subject phrase of at least two syllables and a verb phrase (Fig. 1). This intermediate phrase (ip) boundary is cued through a H-phrase accent, which can be observed by (i) its effect on the reference level of the phrase, and consequently the pitch accent immediately preceding the boundary, as well as (ii) a stronger degree of preboundary lengthening as compared to that associated with the AP-level. In the present study, we tested the strength of the prosodic boundary associated with the right edge of contrastive focus elements in semi-spontaneous speech. The materials consisted of dialogues between two participants who had to collaborate to report information about Paris. An 'interviewer' was instructed to pose questions to a partner, who responded using a map. The interview was based on 12 sets of six response types in which we manipulate (i) the prosodic boundary associated with the last syllable of target phrases and (ii) the domain of focus (Table 1). First, we manipulated the length and syntactic structure of subject NPs to obtain target phrases whose final syllable is predicted, in an unmarked discourse context, to coincide with either an AP-, ip-, or IP-level boundary. Second, we induced specific patterns of focus (all focus vs. narrow focus) by manipulating answers located before and after target answers in series of three (see also German & D'Imperio, 2010). 24 native speakers of French took part in the experiment as interviewees. We measured both the duration and f0 properties of target syllables. The relative 'height' of target syllables was measured by taking the ratio of the F0 peak of the target syllable to that of the first accentual peak within the IP. Consistent with existing research, we hypothesized that the three syntactic contexts would give rise to differences in boundary strength. Additionally, we hypothesized that, independent of syntactic context, target syllables corresponding to a focus boundary would generally coincide with a stronger prosodic boundary compared to those that did not. In other words, we expected that targets in the Narrow-Focus condition would have longer durations and larger F0 ratios than those in the All-Focus conditions. Two linear mixed models were fitted to (i) f0 ratio and (ii) the log of target duration. The results showed significantly shorter durations and lower f0 ratios in the AP-All-Focus condition than all other conditions, including AP-Narrow-Focus, while the comparison of AP-Narrow-Focus and ip-All-Focus was not significant, indicating that at least some targets in the AP-Narrow-Focus condition corresponded to ip boundaries (Fig. 2). In other words, a return to the reference line of the IP plus a degree of preboundary lengthening stronger than that associated with the AP-level was observed when an element was focalized. Using a novel method for eliciting semi-spontaneous speech, these results provide quantitative support for the view that contrastive focus in French is associated with a minimum prosodic domain size. Figures Figure 1. f0 tracks for a sentence meaning "The schema of Thoma's square-­‐rigged became a lot of dirty work" exemplifying an ip boundary cued by a H-­‐ phrase accent at the noun-­‐phrase/verb-­‐phrase break. Figure 2. f0 ratios and vowel duration (in ms.) depending on our six experimental conditions. Table 1. Example of a group of 6 expected answers illustrating the six experimental conditions. Target syllables /ze/ are in bold and domain of focus are indicated by "F".. Caractérisation phonétique et phonologique du syntagme intermédiaire en français : de la production à la perception.
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In this paper we provide a detailed account of the various realizations of the accentual phrase in our phonological model of French intonation (Jun & Fougeron 1995, 2000), and introduce a slight revision in tone-syllable association. In addition to the default and unmarked phrases, we examine the intonational contour of long polymorphemic words and utterances containing a sequence of several clitics. We discuss the status of additional H tones found in the marked phrases and the constraints on the distribution of these H tones.
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French and in the degree of abstractness in the tonal representation, which isdue to the conceptual differences linked to the application of the model: the focus is either on acoustic,representation of models,relevant for speech synthesis and recognition, or on abstract representation for phonological description, or on both levels. Inthis paper, we propose a development of our previous model (Jun & Fougeron, 1995; Fougeron & Jun, 1998) based on the tonal pattern of focus inboth declarative and interrogative sentences, and other syntactic/semantic constructions and,intonational clichés. The organization ofthis paper is as follows. In section 2, we will elaborate our previous model: the underlying tonal pattern and the surface realizations of two prosodic units, an Accentual Phrase and an Intonation Phrase. We will Sun-Ah Jun and Cécile Fougeron 210
Conference Paper
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Studies addressing prosodic constituency in French generally agree on two levels of phrasing (accentual phrase, AP, and intonation phrase, IP), while the existence of an intermediate level of phrasing (intermediate phrase, ip) is still controversial. In this study we examine durational cues in a read speech corpus at normal and fast rates in which the target syllable was either adjacent to a prosodic boundary or word-internal. Additional evidence for the existence of an intermediate level of phrasing between the AP and the IP was found: the vicinity to an ip-boundary is signaled by durational cues that are stronger than the ones associated to an AP-boundary, yet this lengthening is weaker than the one found in the vicinity of an IP boundary.
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1. INTRODUCTION. The distribution of pitch accents in speech is a topic of long-standing importance because it reflects the relationships among different levels of repre-sentation: phonology, syntax, semantics, and information structure. The broad tendency for accents to be located on new information is a classic observation, but formalizing the principles that govern accent placement in all cases has proven to be a difficult challenge. In this discussion note, we use experimental data to explore in depth the accent patterns on constructions with stranded prepositions. We extend the model of Schwarzschild 1999 to account for our findings. Function words are prosodically weaker than content words and do not ordinarily carry accents. However, Ladd (1980) notes an interesting class of exceptions. These are cases in which a preposition has been stranded at the end of an infinitival clause in which all other words are given. Ladd's dialogue (1) provides an example. (1) A: Why don't you have some French toast? B: There's nothing to make French toast OUT of. In 1B, the noun French toast is the default location for the nuclear pitch accent by virtue of being prosodically stronger than its neighbors. However, the prosodic prominence of the noun is weak because of its recent mention in the discourse, and the nuclear accent appears on the preposition. Our study concerns a closely related but more tractable set of examples such as 2, in which contextual effects are more carefully controlled. (2) A: Are the children playing their game? B: Paul took down the tent that they play their game in.
Conference Paper
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This study aims at better describing the acoustic correlates of contrastive focus in French. A corpus was recorded from a male native speaker of French. It consisted of sentences with a subject-verb-object (SVO) structure under four conditions: focus on each phrase (S,V,O) and broad focus. The focal, pre-focal and post-focal constituents were studied separately. The acoustic analysis showed that: a) the pitch of the focal constituent rises, b) that of the surrounding constituents decreases, c) the duration of the focal syllables and of the pre-focal syllable increases, the onset of the focal constituent increasing the most, d) the pre-focal sequence is rephrased, e) the post-focal sequence is deaccented.
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In this tutorial we present evidence that, because syntax does not fully predict the way that spoken utterances are organized, prosody is a significant issue for studies of auditory sentence processing. We describe the basic elements and principles of current prosodic theory, review the psycholinguistic evidence that supports an active role for prosodic structure in sentence representation, and provide a road map of references that contain more complete arguments about prosodic structure and prominence. Because current theories do not predict the precise prosodic shape that a particular utterance will take, it is important to determine the prosodic choices that a speaker has made for utterances that are used in an auditory sentence processing study. To this end, we provide information about practical tools such as systems for signal display and prosodic transcription, and several caveats which we have found useful to keep in mind.
Preface Alan Cruttenden 1. A survey of intonation systems Daniel Hirst and Albert Di Cristo 2. Intonation in American English Dwight Bolinger 3. Intonation in British English Daniel Hirst 4. Intonation in German Dafydd Gibbon 5. Intonation in Dutch Johan 't Hart 6. Intonation in Swedish Eva Garding 7. Intonation in Danish Nina Gronnum 8. Intonation in Spanish Santiago Alcoba and Julio Murillo 9. Intonation in European Portuguese Madalena Cruz-Ferreira 10. Intonation in Brazilian Portuguese Joao Antonio de Moraes 11. Intonation in French Albert Di Cristo 12. Intonation in Italian Mario Rossi 13. Intonation in Romanian Laurentia Dascalu-Jinga 14. Intonation in Russian Natalia Svetozarova 15. Intonation in Bulgarian Anastasia Misheva and Michel Nikov 16. Intonation in Greek Antonis Botinis 17. Intonation in Finnish Annti Iivonen 18. Intonation in Hungarian Ivan Fonagy 19. Intonation in Moroccan Arabic Thami Benkirane 20. Intonation in Japanese Isamu Abe 21. Intonation in Thai Sudaporn Luksaneeyanawin 22. Intonation in Vietnamese Do The Dung, Tran Thien Huong and Georges Boulakia 23. Intonation in Beijing Chinese Paul Kratochvil References Indexes.
This study uses tonal alignment and other analyses to examine the structure of French intonational rises and intonational phonology more generally. I argue that the early rise and the late rise of the French accentual phrase (AP) are structurally different, that the former is a bitonal phrase accent and the latter a bitonal pitch accent. The late rise does not share all the characteristics typically associated with pitch accents, a finding discussed in relation to cross-linguistic distinctions between pitch accents and edge tones. Phrase length, expressed in number of syllables or in clock time, is the best predictor of the realization of the early rise, and thus of two-rise (LHLH) APs. I propose that the early L is edge-seeking—it seeks an association to the beginning edge of the first content word syllable of the AP and an optional association to the edge of an earlier syllable, which is often, but not always, the first syllable of the AP. For both rises, only one end point is anchored to a segmental landmark (the L beginning of the early rise; the H end of the late rise). The French data thus provide evidence that the strong segmental anchoring hypothesis, in which both ends of rises have anchor points, cannot be generalized to all spoken languages.
The study examined intonational cues to word beginnings in French. French has an optional “early rise” in fundamental frequency (F0) starting at the beginning of a content word. The role of this rise in segmentation by human listeners had previously been suggested, but not empirically tested. In Experiment 1, participants listened to noise-masked items like le ballon de mémentos/le ballon de mes manteaux, differing in segmentation and presence of an early rise. They interpreted early rises as markers of content word beginnings. In Experiment 2, the alignment of the early rise was manipulated in nonword sequences like []. Listeners were more likely to perceive two words (mes lamondines) when the early rise started at the second syllable and a single content (non)word (mélamondine) when it started at the first. Experiment 3 showed that a simple F0 elbow at a function word–content word boundary also cued a content word beginning. This pattern and its potential use in word segmentation had not been previously reported in the literature. These intonational cues, like other cues to word segmentation, influenced rather than determined segmentation decisions. The influence of other cues (e.g., duration, word frequency) is also discussed. These results are the first evidence that French listeners use intonational information as cues to content word beginning. These cues are particularly important because the beginning of a word is a privileged position in word recognition and because, unlike many other cues (e.g., stress in English), they identify actual rather than potential word boundaries. The results provide support for an autosegmental-metrical account of the intonational phonology of French in which the early rise is a bitonal (LH) phrase accent that serves as a cue to content word beginnings. The cue is strongest when both tones (LH) are realized, which leads to an early rise, but can still be used if only the L is realized, which leads to a simple elbow. These results illustrate the importance of expanding studies of the range of cues to word segmentation to include intonational cues.