Prosodic universals in discourse particles

Author(s): Tillmann Pistor

Abstract

Recent prosodic research has shown that discourse particles such as hm or äh offer an optimal basis for exploring the functions of prosody in general, since these forms are simply free of semantic and segmental information. This paper outlines the results of a comparative study focusing on prosodic structures as well as their functions occurring in discourse particles in five different and non-related language families. Results of testing perception and production show that there are at least four prosodic units which are similar in their phonetic form as well as in their phonological function in all five language families tested and may thus be regarded as potential language universals.

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