A first glimpse of Kanakanavu word prominence

Author(s): Sally Chen

Abstract

This study investigated the word prominence pattern of Kanakanavu, a critically endangered Austronesian language spoken in Taiwan. Previous studies on the phonetic correlates of Piwan and Saisiyat agreed that pitch is the only consistent cue, indicating that Formosan languages are more like pitch-accent languages. However, given that word accents are in a fixed position for those two languages, it remains an open question whether the same phenomenon would be observed for Kanakanavu, a language with more flexibility in the position of word prominence. A list of 2-, 3-, and 4-syllable words was recorded from three native speakers of this language. The words differ in their word prominence position: Disyllabic words receive their prominence either in the penultimate or the final syllable, while 3- and 4-syllable words are read with their prominence in either the penultimate or the ante-penultimate syllable. Word prominence type and corresponding acoustic correlates were labeled and analyzed. Results showed that only 3-syllable words with prominence in antepenultimate position were realized with different prominence types. Moreover, Kanakanavu word prominence is realized via both pitch and duration: Maximal pitch values were consistently higher for vowels in the syllables receiving word prominence, and duration of these vowels was also longer.

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