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Authors: Schauffler, Nadja
Title: Alternation preferences and focus marking
Issue Date: 2021 Dissertation xviii, 238
Abstract: This thesis presents a crosslinguistic investigation on the interplay between alternation preferences and the prosodic marking of focus in German, English and German learners of English. It does so by means of five production experiments investigating the realisation of double-focus sentences with two directly adjacent foci eliciting pitch accent clashes. The general aim of this thesis is to investigate whether alternation preferences are found at the sentence accent level, and whether they interfere with the prosodic marking of focus. Contrary to what has been claimed before, results obtained from my experiments suggest that rhythmic adjustment strategies do take place under focus marking. The thesis shows, however, that despite their similarity, the two languages rely on different strategies when alternation and focus marking are working in opposite directions. While English speakers often omit the first focus accent in clash contexts, German speakers often create a melodic alternation of high and low by realising the first of two adjacent focus accents with a rising pitch accent (L*H). Evidence obtained from a production experiment with L2 English speakers suggests that these differences matter in language acquisition. German strategies in clash contexts are transferred but used to a lesser extent than found with the L1 German group. Unlike in the L1 English group, however, focus accents are rarely omitted. L2 speakers seem less guided by alternation preferences than native speakers of both languages. This finding is corroborated by a second experiment investigating pitch accent clashes in rhythm rule contexts under different focus environments. In view of the results obtained from this thesis, I conclude that: (i) the preference for alternation can influence the prosodic marking of focus and is a source for variation in the realisation of information-structure categories. The rhythmic context should therefore be taken into account when assigning semantic to phonological categories. (ii) even though German and English share the preference for alternation, it affects prosodic focus marking differently in the two languages. (iii) strategies emanating from alternation preferences are transferred and can cause misproductions in a second language. L2 speech itself is, however, less driven by rhythmic factors.
Appears in Collections:09 Philosophisch-historische Fakultät

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