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Conference Information

Full Title: What is prominence? How do we use it and how do we identify it? (Dr Sasha Calhoun, VUW)
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Start Date: 21-Nov-2013 - 21-Nov-2013
Contact: Kevin Watson
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: This workshop on prominence (2:30-5:00pm) with Dr Sasha Calhoun (Victoria University of Wellington) will take place as part of the bi-annual conference of the Linguistics Society of New Zealand at the University of Canterbury in November 2013. Although it is part of the conference, the workshop is open to anyone free of charge. Anybody with a keen interest in Linguistics is welcome to join us; nevertheless we do ask you to let us know by November 1 if you are planning to attend. If you are willing to share your own data from any language (more info below) please contact Dr Calhoun directly at; the same deadline applies.

One of the key functions of prosody is to highlight or emphasise certain parts of a spoken utterance (Ladd 2008: Intonational Phonology). When a speaker wants to highlight a word or phrase as being the most important part of what they are saying in an utterance, they can use prosodic prominence to make that word or phrase stand out. This is clearly the case for English and other Germanic languages, where a word or phrase that is prosodically prominent is generally longer and louder than the words around it, and associated with a large pitch movement. However, recently, there has been considerable interest in the extent to which this is true across languages, i.e. in whether using prosodic prominence to highlight is 'basic' or 'primary' in all spoken language.

In this workshop, Dr Calhoun will outline some of the different linguistic functions which have been claimed to be marked by prosodic prominence, including focus, new information, contrast, syntactic attachment and the interpretation of certain adverbs. She will also review some of the different ways in which a word or phrase can be made prosodically prominent, including phrasal and stress-based prominence, and prosodically-motivated constituent 'movement'. Furthermore, cases in which the position of prosodic prominence may be counter-intuitive will also be discussed.

The remainder of the session will then be turned over to discussion of data from workshop participants. After discussing some recent puzzling data from her own work on Samoan, Dr Calhoun would like to get workshop participants involved by looking at their data in any language that involves issues of prosodic prominence. It is hoped that by sharing this kind of data, all workshop participants can gain insights from the discussion as to what prominence is across languages, how it is used and how it can be identified.

Could people with data they wish to discuss at the workshop please send me a brief description of the data, and how and why it raises issues to do with prosodic prominence, by Friday 1 November ( You are welcome to take part in the workshop if you don't have any relevant data you wish to share.

Baumann, Stefan & Frank Kügler 2013. Theme session on 'Prosody and Information Status in Typological Perspective', 35th Annual Conference of the German Linguistics Society, Potsdam, March 2013.
Büring, D. 2009. Towards a typology of focus realization. In M. Zimmermann & C. Féry (eds.), Information Structure, Oxford University Press, pp. 177-205.
Calhoun, Sasha 2006. Information Structure and the Prosodic Structure of English: a Probabilistic Relationship, PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh.
Ladd, D. Robert 2008. Intonational Phonology (second edition). UK: Cambridge University Press.
Linguistic Subfield: General Linguistics; Phonology
LL Issue: 24.4226

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