The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 11/20 - Koichi Tateishi (Kobe College & MIT)

Speaker: Koichi Tateishi (Kobe College & MIT), joint work with Shinobu Mizuguchi (Kobe University)
Title: Focus Prosody in Japanese Reconsidered
Date/Time: Monday, 20 November 2017, 5:00-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831
This study, a part of ongoing joint project on production/perception of Japanese intonation and focus, discusses topics that have hardly been touched upon in relation to them. Most previous studies on Japanese accent and pitch have focused on mechanisms of accentuation, how lexical accents manipulate pitch/F0, how intonation patterns are parsed into prosodic phrases, and how focus affects intonational patterns and prosodic phrasing. However, except for sporadic mention by, for example, Pierrehumbert and Beckman (1988), Selkirk and Tateishi (1988, 1991), Sugahara (2003), and Ishihara (2011a), the discussions are solely on accented words and Downstep (Catathesis), and discussions on unaccented words are hardly found. In this study, we did preliminary experiments on perception/production of focus under various accentual conditions, to examine whether the so-called effects of focus in Japanese (and other languages perhaps) apply to other accentual environments. Due to the preliminary nature of our study, we do not intend to say that the points below are valid, but our interim conclusion is a very moderate one, namely that our results accord with what has been being said about the effects of focus in recent years (Ishihara (2003, 2011ab, 2016, 2017), Sugahara (2003), among others), with several findings that may be novel.
  1. An unaccented prosodic phrase also undergoes Focal Boost of F0, which means that focal prosody is not an accent.
  2. Related to this, the boost of F0 due to focus is not so strong that it nullifies previous F0-manipulating effects, such as Downstep. (Ishihara (2003), Shinya (1999))
  3. Because of the Boost and other factors (such as Lowering of F0 due to GIVENness), Downstep-like effects CAN be observed after an unaccented word with focus. (somehow related to Sugahara’s (2003) results, but a little different)
  4. When there is a string of enough length with GIVEN information contents, there appears to be PRE-focal lowering. This lowering appears to lower the pitch of the focus following it. (There have been studies on GIVEN strings AFTER focus, but not BEFORE in our understanding.)
  5. Given 1.-4., the manipulation of F0 by focus is affected by so many factors, and perhaps it is not appropriate to say that focus initiates a new Major Phrase (or Phonological Phrase). (Ishihara’s series of work)