Speaker-specific intonational marking of narrow focus in Egyptian Arabic

Author(s): Francesco Cangemi, Dina El Zarka, Simon Wehrle, Stefan Baumann and Martine Grice

Abstract

Experimental evidence suggests that prosodic encoding of information structure in Egyptian Arabic (EA) might be limited to contrastive focus and achieved through phonetically continuous means (i.e. pitch range expansion on the focused constituent and pitch compression on post-focal material). In this paper we explore the hypothesis of a richer mapping between information structure and intonation in EA, with respect both to the encoding of further focus types and to the use of parameters beyond pitch range (e.g. alignment of f0 turning points). By performing speaker-specific analyses on a dataset of read speech from 18 speakers, we provide evidence suggesting that EA also uses intonation to encode narrow information focus. For many speakers this is achieved through a different temporal alignment of f0 turning points instead of, or in addition to, pitch range manipulation. Crucially, the findings highlight the usefulness of a speaker-specific analysis for the study of the mapping between prosody and information structure.

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