Contrastive topic constituents in German

Author(s): Sabine Zerbian, Giuseppina Turco, Nadja Schauffler, Margaret Zellers and Arndt Riester

Abstract

This article reports on a study investigating the intonational realization of context-changing and context-preserving contrastive topics in German. Results of the pilot study show that both kinds of topics can be marked by different pitch accents on the topic constituent, although speaker-specific differences emerge. When speakers do use different pitch accents, low rises (L*H) exclusively occur on context-changing contrastive topics whereas simple rises ((L)H*) are frequently used for both types. The qualitative results are complemented by a fine-grained phonetic analysis using Functional Data Analysis. Together, the results provide empirical evidence from a carefully controlled study for the impressionistic descriptions found in the literature.

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