LINGUIST List 13.1223

Thu May 2 2002

Diss: Phonology: Schaefer "The prosodic..."

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  1. steven.schaefer, Phonology: Schaefer "The prosodic behavior of sentence..."

Message 1: Phonology: Schaefer "The prosodic behavior of sentence..."

Date: Wed, 01 May 2002 12:57:41 +0000
From: steven.schaefer <>
Subject: Phonology: Schaefer "The prosodic behavior of sentence..."

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: University of Paris 7 - Denis Diderot
Program: English linguistics / Language and culture of
English-speaking societes
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1998

Author: Steven Schaefer 

Dissertation Title: 
The prosodic behavior of sentence complements in American English - Le
Comportement prosodique des complements en anglais americain

Linguistic Field: Phonology, Phonetics

Subject Language: English

Dissertation Director 1: Marie-Line Groussier
Dissertation Director 2: Marie-Annick Morel
Dissertation Director 3: Alain Nicaise
Dissertation Director 4: Alain Deschamps

Dissertation Abstract: 

Various treatments of phrase accentuation and intonation, two major
components of the larger problem of prosody in English, have
characterized the linguistic functioning of both in terms either of
syntactic structures only, or else as the reflection of psychological
attitudes. The prosodic role of sentence complements (subject, object,
adjunct or adverbial complement of the finite verb) and prepositional
object complements generally confers upon them the status of
accentuated elements, without the larger implications of their
prosodic role being discussed.

Moreover, linguistic investigations have not heretofore established a
non-ambiguous link between acoustic parameters of prosody and
linguistic structure. The most prevalent schemata today either assign
values to syntax-based phonological models, or else result in
linguistically non-interpretable phonetic description of prosodic

The present study traces the problem to the ambivalent relationship
between acoustic language phenomena, multi-parametric in nature, and
the perception of linguistically pertinent prosodic prominence, which
is engendered by these phenomena. In an attempt to clarify the nature
of prominence, the prevalent notion of stress is notably called into
question. The spectrographic acoustic analysis which forms the central
core of the thesis is carried out on some two hundred utterances of
spontaneous speech in American English; the presence of prosodic
prominence measured along a number of parameters (frequency,
amplitude, duration and interval) attests to its place in the
construction of the acoustic material of the utterance.

A minute examination of these four primary acoustic parameters reveals
the principle of their prosodic pertinence in the composition of
prominent points in the utterance, which in turn mark the underlying
linguistic operations. The proposed method first identifies the
acoustic profile of four discrete levels for the prominent points in
the corpus utterances; these levels are then analyzed in terms of
relations constructed on the basis of the semantic core of the
utterance, or lexis relations (as defined in the Theory of Enunciative
Operations). These prosodic levels are shown in this study to be
relevant to enunciative operations as advanced by the theory of
Antoine Culioli, which permits the inclusion of prosodic analysis in
the larger framework of cognitive operations involved in the utterance
act. The semantic and referential relations marked by prosodic
prominence invariably involve enunciative operations which can be
analyzed at the notional level, and provide a sound basis for moving
beyond a simple distinction between hypostatized lexical and
grammatical sentence elements.

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