Speaker Series: Elizabeth Zsiga

Jan 29, 2015 at - | IRCS Conference Room


Elizabeth Zsiga of Georgetown University will be giving a talk (abstract below).


The talk will be in the IRCS Conference Room at 3:30pm and will be followed by the GradLingS reception. You must be over 21 and possess a valid ID to attend the second event.


A Case Study in Culminativity: Tone, Stress, Intonation, and Length in Three Neo-­‐Štokavian Dialects

Words tend to have a single prominence peak, a property known as "culminativity" (Trubetzkoy 1939). When multiple dimensions of prominence are present, they tend to co- occur: long vowels attract stress, stressed vowels become long, intonational pitch accent attach to stressed syllables. Culminativity also applies to tone and stress in languages that have both (DeLacy 2002, Hyman 2006): in some systems, high tone attracts stress, and in others, stress attracts high tone. In this talk, I'll discuss the effects of culminativity in three Neo-­‐Štokavian dialects of Serbian (Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Valjevo).


Serbian is traditionally described as having "pitch accent," contrastive rising and falling melodies associated to stressed syllables (Lehiste & Ivić 1986, Smiljanić 2002). We argue (Zsiga & Zec 2013) that this characterization is exactly backwards: Serbian is a tone language, with lexically-­‐specified high tone that then attracts stress. Tone and stress do not always exactly coincide, but must be at least contiguous, a phenomenon we refer to as "extended culminativity." Analyzing "pitch accent" as an interaction of lexical tone and culminativity allows us to explain the rising vs. falling pitch patterns, and to account for otherwise puzzling gaps in their distribution.


Our analysis also accounts for dialectal variation in the realization of rising and falling accents. I will report on an acoustic study that shows that tone, stress, intonation, and vowel length are present in all three dialects, but that the dialects differ in which dimensions are given precedence in realization. In Novi Sad, the lexical association of tone is always respected, at the expense of intonational contrast. In Valjevo, culminativity has a stronger effect, so that stress and vowel length interact to pull tone away from its lexical specification, especially under pressure from crowding by intonational tones. Belgrade demonstrates the rare case of intonation taking precedence over lexical tone: lexical contrast is sometimes neutralized so that intonational boundary tones can be realized.


Overall, we expand empirical coverage of the Neo--Stokavian dialects, with new documentation of variation in the realization of accentual patterns, offer a unified account of both their lexical specification and phonetic realization, and place these findings within the larger context of prosodic theory, providing for a better understanding of the typology of systems where tone and stress interact.