Leading, linking, and closing tones and tunes in Egyptian Arabic – what a simple intonation system tells us about the nature of intonation

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This paper offers an analysis of the basic structure of the intonation system of Egyptian Arabic within an autosegmental framework. Contrary to mainstream work, it is assumed here that the primary units of intonation are not abstract targets but meaningful configurations. Intonation is thought of as an essentially iconic system. Thus three tonal configurations are identified in line with the metaphoric extensions of Ohala’s frequency code and correlated with pragmatic functions: A rising contour is characteristic for topic articulation, while a falling contour, signifying assertion, is used for the focal parts of an utterance. The third, neutral, tone is used for downplaying given material. The contours are obtained by manipulating the basic accent shape, a rise-fall, when associating the melody with the linguistic material. Manipulations are represented as features affecting the low and high targets of the individual accents.


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