Acoustic cues to prosodic boundaries in Yami: A first look

Author(s): Li-Fang Lai and Shelome Gooden


It is well known that in many Indo-European languages speakers manipulate acoustic cues to encode different prosodic phrase boundaries. However, no such attempt has been made to investigate these effects in Austronesian languages. Therefore, this paper reports on preliminary research on the prosodic structure of Yami, an endangered Austronesian language spoken on Orchid Island, Taiwan. Two acoustic parameters were examined: pre-boundary syllable duration and phrase-final F0 slope. The results provide evidence for a three-layered prosodic hierarchy in Yami: Word, AP, and IP. These levels differ significantly in syllable duration, particularly when the pre-boundary syllables bear lexical stress. The phrase-final F0 slope also serves as a cue to prosodic boundaries since the IP boundary tones (H% and L%) are characterized by steeper F0 curves, whereas the corresponding AP tones (Ha and La) are typified by steady pitch curves. The results we report not only offer a basic understanding of the prosodic structure of Yami, but contribute to the research on Austronesian language prosody more generally.