14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)
San Francisco, CA, USA
Spanish utterances showing accentual focus on the verb,
predicate, and object constituents consistently show that the
focused accent is downstepped with respect to the accent to its
left. As shown in García-Lecumberri, Cabrera-Abreu and
Maidment  (henceforth García-Lecumberri et al.) in their
description of utterances showing focus on the verb, a
satisfactory account of such utterances in terms of Pierrehumbert
 remains unclear, the major reason being that the
distributional conditions of pitch accents imposed in
Pierrehumbert's model for the account of downstep are not met.
Following Cabrera-Abreu , in which the observed downstep in verb focus utterances is analysed as the presence of a toneless empty nucleus in phonological representation, in this paper, we propose to analyse predicate focus and object focus Spanish utterances in the same fashion. Thus, the prediction is made that a toneless empty nucleus together with an intonation group edge are responsible for the manifestation of focal domains in phonological structure
By contrast, the main characteristic of English utterances is that they tend to show a single intonation group in their phonological structure, and downstep is not neccessarily a mark of focus.
Bibliographic reference. Cabrera-Abreu, Mercedes / García-Lecumberri, María Luisa / Maidment, John / Takahasi, Toyomi (1999): "The phonological representation of accentual focus in some English and Spanish utterances", In ICPhS-14, 1761-1764.