The Phonetics of Prosody
- Amalia ArvanitiAmalia ArvanitiProfessor of English Language and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, Radboud University
Prosody is an umbrella term used to cover a variety of interconnected and interacting phenomena, namely stress, rhythm, phrasing, and intonation. The phonetic expression of prosody relies on a number of parameters, including duration, amplitude, and fundamental frequency (F0). The same parameters are also used to encode lexical contrasts (such as tone), as well as paralinguistic phenomena (such as anger, boredom, and excitement). Further, the exact function and organization of the phonetic parameters used for prosody differ across languages. These considerations make it imperative to distinguish the linguistic phenomena that make up prosody from their phonetic exponents, and similarly to distinguish between the linguistic and paralinguistic uses of the latter. A comprehensive understanding of prosody relies on the idea that speech is prosodically organized into phrasal constituents, the edges of which are phonetically marked in a number of ways, for example, by articulatory strengthening in the beginning and lengthening at the end. Phrases are also internally organized either by stress, that is around syllables that are more salient relative to others (as in English and Spanish), or by the repetition of a relatively stable tonal pattern over short phrases (as in Korean, Japanese, and French). Both types of organization give rise to rhythm, the perception of speech as consisting of groups of a similar and repetitive pattern. Tonal specification over phrases is also used for intonation purposes, that is, to mark phrasal boundaries, and express information structure and pragmatic meaning. Taken together, the components of prosody help with the organization and planning of speech, while prosodic cues are used by listeners during both language acquisition and speech processing. Importantly, prosody does not operate independently of segments; rather, it profoundly affects segment realization, making the incorporation of an understanding of prosody into experimental design essential for most phonetic research.