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Title:Prosodic and Syntactic Factors in the Phonetic Realization of Function Words in American English
Author(s):Oh, Young-Il
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Cole, Jennifer S.
Department / Program:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Language, Linguistics
Abstract:Function (i.e., grammatical) words very frequently lack word-level stress and display phonetic reduction relative to content (i.e., lexical) words. However, word-class (function vs. content) may not be the only factor that affects phonetic realization of function words; prosodic and syntactic context can also play a significant role in conditioning phonetic reduction and strengthening of function words.
This dissertation investigates the acoustic variation of four function words 'for', 'in', 'to', and 'that' in American English as a function of phrasal accent, word class, position in a sentence, and syntactic head status. Three specific research questions are (a) how are homophones of function and content words phonetically realized differently depending on their word class and accent status?; (b) how are function words phonetically differently manifested depending on position in a phrase and accent status?; and (c) how are function words differently realized depending on position in a sentence and syntactic head status as lexical or functional head of phrase? Two experiments were conducted and five acoustic measurements of duration, F1, F2, intensity, and FO were compared.
The results demonstrated that the phonetic realization of function words is significantly influenced by word class and accent status, but that accent status displays a stronger effect than word class, whose effect is constrained when accented. It was also found that both prosodic position and accent status have significant effects on the phonetic manifestation of function words, and accent effect is greater than position effect. Lastly, the results revealed that the phonetic details of function words are also affected by position in a sentence and syntactic head category, though the effects are relatively weak. However, it was noted that the effects of those factors were not uniform across the words or across the acoustic features.
The main finding in this study that the phonetic encoding of function words is influenced by all three factors---word class, prosodic context, and syntactic context---is discussed with an alternative pragmatic explanation, and it will contribute to a theory of reduction phenomena in speech, to the characterization of prosodic structure and phrasing in English, and to the study of second language acquisition.
Issue Date:2009
Description:147 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2009.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI3392240
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:2009

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