ASA 127th Meeting M.I.T. 1994 June 6-10

4pSP1. Salient pitch cues in the perception of contrastive focus.

Christine Bartels

John Kingston

Linguistics Dept., Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003

The distinction between contrastive and noncontrastive focus in English can be conveyed by the difference between a L+H* vs H* pitch accent [Pierrehumbert and Hirschberg, in Intentions in Communication, edited by Cohen et al. (MIT, Cambridge, MA, 1990)]. It is unclear, however, which acoustic properties of an F0 contour convey to a listener the occurrence of the contrastive L+H* rather than the noncontrastive H*. In these experiments, rise onset F0, peak F0, and slope were varied to see how they alone and together contribute to the contrast between a L+H* vs H* on the focused constituent. Listeners classified the stimuli as either contrastive or noncontrastive, with discourse context distinguishing the two interpretations. Peak height and slope traded in determining the category boundary between interpretations. Implications for the choice of primitives in intonational models and for compositional approaches to tune meaning are discussed. [Work supported by NIH.]