A quantitative study of focus shift in Marathi

Author(s): Preeti Rao, Hansjörg Mixdorff, Ishan Deshpande, Niramay Sanghvi and Shruti Kshirsagar

Abstract

We study the effect of focus shift on the prosodic features for Marathi, a major Indian language. With prompts designed to elicit different focus conditions on the subject, object and verb of a target sentence, we investigate the correlates of duration, intensity and fundamental frequency at the word level across recordings of 12 native Marathi speakers. A perception experiment revealed that while focus width and location are discriminated by native listeners, contrastive focus cannot be reliably distinguished from non-contrastive. We find that narrow focus is marked by longer duration and increased intensity of the focused word as well as larger pitch change within it. F0 is further studied via the accent commands of the Fujisaki model. The effect of narrow focus is clearly seen in the reduction of accent command amplitudes for post-focal items, whereas pre-focal items never completely lose their F0 gestures. The defining F0 movement for each constituent is aligned with its right boundary. Since the phonetic aspects of lexical stress are not well understood for Marathi, we make observations for prosodic changes in all syllables of the content words. Finally, our results are compared to those of the few available studies on focus in Hindi.

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