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Title:An experimental study of the status of two low-rising intonation contours in American English
Author(s):Levis, John Michael
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McClure, Erica F.
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Language and Literature
Language, Linguistics
Language, Modern
Abstract:This thesis addresses the question of whether two low-rising contours, the L$\sp*$ L H% and L$\sp*$ H H% (Pierrehumbert and Hirschberg 1991), should be considered categorical distinctions in Midwestern American English. The status of L$\sp*$ L H% has been questioned by several previous researchers, while the L$\sp*$ H H% has only recently been investigated as an important contour in American English.
The status of the two low-rising contours was investigated through the use of two meaning-based tests. The interpretation of the L$\sp*$ L H% was compared to that of the fall (H$\sp*$ L L%) and fall-rise (H$\sp*$ L H%), two generally accepted contours, while the interpretation of the L$\sp*$ H H% was compared to the H$\sp*$ H H%, a third accepted contour. Twenty-eight dialogues were recorded. The nucleus of the final utterance of each dialogue (utterances included declaratives, Yes/no questions, and WH questions) was electronically manipulated to produce two or three dialogues differing only in the nuclear tone, resulting in a total of 70 stimuli. Fourteen dialogues were used to compare the interpretations of the L$\sp*$ L H%, H$\sp*$ L L% and H$\sp*$ H H% and fourteen to compare the L$\sp*$ H H% and H$\sp*$ H H%. Forty-seven subjects interpreted the meaning of the final utterances.
Results indicate that neither the L$\sp*$ L H% nor the L$\sp*$ H H% are clearly categorical. In mixed results, subjects interpreted the L$\sp*$ L H% as distinct from the H$\sp*$ L L% but not the H$\sp*$ L H%. However, the L$\sp*$ H H% and H$\sp*$ H H% contours were consistently interpreted in the same way on all three grammatical structures examined, indicating that this dialect of English has a single category for a generally high-rising contour.
The results suggest that this dialect of English distinguishes only three of the five contours on the basis of meaning. Furthermore, they suggest that the phonological distinction in English between simple high and low pitch accents (H$\sp*$ vs. L$\sp*$) is of questionable value for this dialect. A critical evaluation of the value and most appropriate use of meaning-based tests is presented, and the results of intonational research are applied to the teaching of intonation in English as a second language (ESL) textbooks.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Levis, John Michael
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9702581
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9702581

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