The acoustic correlates of stress and accent in English content and function words

Author(s): Robert Fuchs


This paper has two aims: (1) To contribute to the discussion on what the acoustic correlates of stress and accent in English are, a question on which there is currently no universal agreement; (2) To determine whether vowels in function words receive less stress than similarly unstressed vowels in content words. To this purpose, the study analyses 614 occurrences of the lax high front vowel /\textsci / in read speech produced by 10 male speakers of Standard Southern British English. 14 different acoustic features are investigated. Results indicate that (1) there are two acoustic correlates of \textbfaccent (duration and f\subscript0 slope), four acoustic correlates of \textbfstress (spectral balance/tilt, intensity/loudness, amplitude of voicing (H1), amplitude of the first harmonic (A1), H1*-A2 and H1*-A3*), one potential acoustic correlate of \textbfprominence in general (F1), and four acoustic features that appear to be unrelated to the expression of accent, stress or prominence (F2, HNR, glottal leakage (B1) and the open quotient (H1*-H2*)). Regarding question (2), there is also limited evidence that British English function words might be less prominent than unstressed syllables in content words.