5aSC17. Boundary tones and focus realization in African American English intonations.

Session: Friday Morning, December 6


Author: Sun-Ah Jun
Location: Dept. of Linguist., UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543
Author: Christina Foreman
Location: Dept. of Linguist., UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543


Intonation of African American English (AAE) has been impressionistically described as having a final level rising and an early rise contour different from that of mainstream American English (MAE) [Tarone (1972)]. But to our knowledge, no systematic description of AAE intonation has been done based on phonetic experiments. In this study, tone patterns occurring at the final edge (nuclear pitch accent, phrase tone, and boundary tone) of different sentence types were examined. Tonal patterns were compared based on the framework of Pierrehumbert and her colleagues [Pierrehumbert, 1980]. In addition, the location of focus was varied to examine how focus interacts with the early rise or final level rise in AAE. Three dialogue sets acted out by female speakers of AAE and MAE were recorded. Preliminary results show that both groups use the same final edge tone patterns for declaratives and wh-questions, but different patterns for yes/no questions (L*, H-, upstepped H% for MAE vs H*, H-, level H% for AAE) and vocatives. For focused sentences, AAE very often added postnuclear pitch accents when nonfinal words were focused. Furthermore, AAE used a sharp final fall preceded by a high tone (H+L*L-L*) when they have a negative attitude toward the sentence or situation.

ASA 132nd meeting - Hawaii, December 1996