Do complex pitch gestures induce syllable lengthening in Catalan and Spanish?

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In both Spanish and Catalan, narrow contrastive focus and presentational broad focus in nuclear position have different pitch accent choices, namely a rising or a falling pitch accent, respectively. In words with final stress, narrow contrastive focus displays a rise-fall complex pitch gesture in the last syllable of the utterance. This article investigates the effects of the complexity of such a pitch pattern on the durational properties of the syllables in both languages when compared to the simpler falling pitch movement. The results of the production experiment reveal that, in general, the presence of a complex pitch pattern tends to have a lengthening effect on the target syllable. Yet we also find that some instances of this complex contour can be partially truncated, in which case it does <i>not</i> trigger lengthening. In sum, even though truncation and compression have been claimed to be language- and dialect-specific strategies (Ladd 1996; Grabe 1998; Grabe et al. 2000), in our data, truncation can be considered a speaker phonetic realization strategy that interacts with timing in such a way that there is a trade-off relationship between the two factors.


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