15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Peak Alignment and Intonational Change in Basque

Kiwako Ito (1), Gorka Elordieta (2), José Ignacio Hualde (3)

(1) Ohio State University, USA
(2) Universidad del País Vasco, Spain
(3) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Northern Bizkaian Basque (NBB) possesses a prosodic system which is radically different from that of Spanish, a language in which all speakers are nowadays bilingual. Whereas, many of the features of the NBB system that make it obviously unlike Spanish have been lost in other areas, presumably as a result of contact, in the NBB area a pitch-accent system has been preserved. In this paper we test whether convergence with Spanish is found in the speech of the younger NBB generations in the pragmatic use of pitch displacement, an intonational feature whose adoption would not involve a radical restructuring of the prosodic system of NBB. In Spanish, accentual peaks are typically displaced to the posttonic in prenuclear position, whereas alignment of the peak with the stressed syllable is mostly found in words under focus and in nuclear position. The results of an experiment reported here show that some NBB speakers do use displaced peaks for marking pragmatically less important information. However, this use of peak delay is much more restricted than in Spanish. In particular, pitch rises continuing in the posttonic are found only in cases where the word is marked as a topic. Unlike in Spanish, accentual peaks are realized within the lexically accented syllable in neutral prenuclear contexts. We conclude that, although in the intonational marking of topics we may have convergence with Spanish for some speakers, there has not been a wholesale adoption of Spanish rules governing peak alignment in the speech of any of our NBB subjects.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Ito, Kiwako / Elordieta, Gorka / Hualde, José Ignacio (2003): "Peak alignment and intonational change in Basque", In ICPhS-15, 2929-2932.