Exploring underlying pitch targets in English statements

Yi Xu and Ching X. Xu

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America -- November 2001 -- Volume 110, Issue 5 pp. 2736-2737

This study investigates F0 contours and their potential association with underlying pitch targets in English statements with and without narrow focus. Eight native speakers of American English read aloud 21 sentences at 2 speaking rates with 7 repetitions. The initial, middle, and final words in these sentences vary in focus status (focus or no focus) and word length (monosyllabic, disyllabic, or trisyllabic). F0 curves are extracted using a method that combines automatic vocal cycle detection and manual rectification. Preliminary results show that F0 peaks occur earlier when the vowel of the accented syllable is phonologically long than when it is phonologically short. This seems to suggest that a nonfinal pitch accent in an English statement is probably associated with a high static target. Preliminary analyses also show that F0 contours of nonaccented syllables are influenced more by the preceding accent than by the following accent. Furthermore, the influence of the accented syllable on the F0 of the following (but not the preceding) nonaccented syllable is found to reduce over time. These patterns seem to suggest that inter-accent F0 contours in English probably also result from certain underlying pitch targets rather than from linear or nonlinear interpolation between adjacent pitch accents.

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