Correlates of phrasing in French and German from an experiment with semi-spontaneous speech

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Correlates of prosodic phrasing are examined in a comparative study between two languages, German and French. The material was elicited in a production experiment with 30 speakers of German and 20 speakers of French, who were asked to describe orally the spatial arrangement of toy animals on a table. Prosodic phrasing clearly correlates to syntactic structure in both languages, but tonal excursions correspond to pitch accents plus boundaries in German, and have a demarcative function in French. This difference is explained by the presence vs. absence of lexical stresses in the two languages. It is reflected in the position of tones, which are peripheral in the French prosodic phrases, but are associated with metrical heads in German, and also with final lengthening, which is systematic in French, but not in German. A final difference between the two languages is deaccenting, used in German, but not in French.


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