The role of early fundamental frequency rises and elbows in French word segmentation

Abstract

The study examined intonational cues to word beginnings in French. French has an optional ‘‘early rise’’ in fundamental frequency (F0) starting at the beginning of a content word. The role of this rise in segmentation by human listeners had previously been suggested, but not empirically tested. In Experiment 1, participants listened to noise-masked items like le ballon de mémentos/le ballon de mes manteaux, differing in segmentation and presence of an early rise. They interpreted early rises as markers of content word beginnings. In Experiment 2, the alignment of the early rise was manipulated in nonword sequences like [me.la.m~O.din]. Listeners were more likely to perceive two words (mes lamondines) when the early rise started at the second syllable and a single content (non)word (mélamondine) when it started at the first. Experiment 3 showed that a simple F0 elbow at a function word–content word boundary also cued a content word beginning. This pattern and its potential use in word segmentation had not been previously reported in the literature. These intonational cues, like other cues to word segmentation, influenced rather than determined segmentation decisions. The influence of other cues (e.g., duration, word frequency) is also discussed. These results are the first evidence that French listeners use intonational information as cues to content word beginning. These cues are particularly important because the beginning of a word is a privileged position in word recognition and because, unlike many other cues (e.g., stress in English), they identify actual rather than potential word boundaries. The results provide support for an autosegmental-metrical account of the intonational phonology of French in which the early rise is a bitonal (LH) phrase accent that serves as a cue to content word beginnings. The cue is strongest when both tones (LH) are realized, which leads to an early rise, but can still be used if only the L is realized, which leads to a simple elbow. These results illustrate the importance of expanding studies of the range of cues to word segmentation to include intonational cues. 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

DOI: 10.1016/j.specom.2006.10.005

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@article{Welby2007TheRO, title={The role of early fundamental frequency rises and elbows in French word segmentation}, author={Pauline Welby}, journal={Speech Communication}, year={2007}, volume={49}, pages={28-48} }