Melodic alternations in Spanish

Torreira, F. (2015). Melodic alternations in Spanish. In The Scottish Consortium for ICPhS 2015 (Ed.), Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2015) (pp. 946.1-5). Glasgow, UK: The University of Glasgow. Retrieved from
This article describes how the tonal elements of two common Spanish intonation contours –the falling statement and the low-rising-falling request– align with the segmental string in broad-focus utterances differing in number of prosodic words. Using an imitation-and-completion task, we show that (i) the last stressed syllable of the utterance, traditionally viewed as carrying the ‘nuclear’ accent, associates with either a high or a low tonal element depending on phrase length (ii) that certain tonal elements can be realized or omitted depending on the availability of specific metrical positions in their intonational phrase, and (iii) that the high tonal element of the request contour associates with either a stressed syllable or an intonational phrase edge depending on phrase length. On the basis of these facts, and in contrast to previous descriptions of Spanish intonation relying on obligatory and constant nuclear contours (e.g., L* L% for all neutral statements), we argue for a less constrained intonational morphology involving tonal units linked to the segmental string via contour-specific principles.
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