How Truncating Are ‘Truncating Languages'? Evidence from Russian and GermanRathcke T.V.
University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
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Article / Publication Details
Russian and German have pr eviously been described as ‘truncating‘, or cutting off target frequencies of the phrase-final pitch trajectories when the time available for voicing is compromised. However, supporting evidence is rare and limited to only a few pitch categories. This paper reports a production study conducted to document pitch adjustments to linguistic materials, in which the amount of voicing available for the realization of a pitch pattern varies from relatively long to extremely short. Productions of nuclear H+L*, H* and L*+H pitch accents followed by a low boundary tone were investigated in the two languages. The results of the study show that speakers of both ‘truncating languages' do not utilize truncation exclusively when accommodating to different segmental environments. On the contrary, they employ several strategies - among them is truncation but also compression and temporal re-alignment - to produce the target pitch categories under increasing time pressure. Given that speakers can systematically apply all three adjustment strategies to produce some pitch patterns (H* L% in German and Russian) while not using truncation in others (H+L* L% particularly in Russian), we question the effectiveness of the typological classification of these two languages as ‘truncating'. Moreover, the phonetic detail of truncation varies considerably, both across and within the two languages, indicating that truncation cannot be easily modeled as a unified phenomenon. The results further suggest that the phrase-final pitch adjustments are sensitive to the phonological composition of the tonal string and the status of a particular tonal event (associated vs. boundary tone), and do not apply to falling vs. rising pitch contours across the board, as previously put forward for German. Implications for the intonational phonology and prosodic typology are addressed in the discussion.
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