PROSODIC MARKING OF INFORMATION STATUS: EVIDENCE FROM BRAZILIAN PORTUGUESE


Abstract


The present study has as objective to describe which acoustic parameters are related to the prosodic marking of referential status in Brazilian Portuguese (hence BP). Recent proposals in the area of Information Structure suggest that new and given information are in fact ends of a continuum of possible (mental) states for discourse referents. Word duration and fundamental frequency were the phonetic dimensions analyzed. The results show that the relative position of the referent in the utterance has a great influence in how the prosody is manifested and that duration and average f0 are parameters related to the distinction between new referents and given and accessible ones. The overall analysis of the data from this production study indicates that BP speakers use prosodic cues to signal the informational status of entities in discourse. Despite the variation among subjects, one can notice that the acoustic differences between the statuses are rather similar within subjects. Unlike the results found in other languages (i.e. German), BP seems to not have a distinctive marking for accessible status, a conclusion which is supported by the data from both studies. Apparently, despite the fact that information status is an inherently cognitive phenomenon, its manifestation is variable across languages.


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