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Perception of Narrow Focus Prosody in Buenos Aires Spanish
Jennifer Lang-Rigal
118-126 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


One of the many distinctive features of Buenos Aires Spanish intonation is the early peak alignment of the tone within the stressed syllable in broad focus declaratives (Colantoni and Gurlekian 2004); an alignment pattern characteristic of narrow focus in other varieties of Spanish (Face 2000, 2001, 2002). Since pitch alignment is believed to be an important cue to convey focus (Prieto, Face) the question arises: how then is narrow focus conveyed in Buenos Aires Spanish (BAS)? Previous work from production experiments suggest vowel duration (Rodriguez 2008), and intensity (Toledo 1989, 2000) as the only consistent cues for narrow focus in BAS. The aim of this study is to determine what prosodic markers are important for speakers of BAS in the perception of narrow versus broad focus interpretation for declarative utterances. This hypothesis is tested with a multiple choice perception task in which BAS speakers distinguish between narrow focus and broad focus utterances. The task contains 16 experimental tokens, consisting of 8 narrow focus and 8 broad focus recordings of the utterance 'Manolo viene mañana.' The word 'Manolo' is manipulated regarding 1) pitch height, 2) duration of the stressed syllable (vowel) of the word in focus, and 3) a post-accentual pause. Results from 8 BAS speakers indicate that the narrow focus original base and an increased pitch height are the two most important factors contributing to the perception of narrow focus, while vowel duration and post-accentual pause were also significantly correlated to the perception and interpretation of narrow focus (p<.01, p=0.013, respectively). These data suggest that narrow focus perception relies upon more than pitch alignment, and in particular, phonetic cues outside of the focused word.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 5th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Romance Phonology
edited by Scott M. Alvord
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Printed edition: $225.00