LINGUIST List 15.2536

Sat Sep 11 2004

Review: Phonology: Varga (2002)

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  1. Aritz Irurtzun, Intonation and Stress: Evidence from Hungarian

Message 1: Intonation and Stress: Evidence from Hungarian

Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 17:10:14 -0400 (EDT)
From: Aritz Irurtzun <>
Subject: Intonation and Stress: Evidence from Hungarian

AUTHOR: Varga, L�szl�
TITLE: Intonation and Stress
SUBTITLE: Evidence from Hungarian
PUBLISHER: Palgrave MacMillan
YEAR: 2002
ISBN: 0333973704
Announced at

Aritz Irurtzun, Linguistics and Basque Studies, EHU-U. Basque Country


After an introductory chapter, the book is divided into two main
parts: the first one is on intonation and contains the chapters 2 to 5
and the second part is on stress and contains the chapters 6 to 8.
More specifically, chapter 2 introduces a general view on intonation
analyzing the different functions that intonation covers and
accommodating it in a broader field of prosodic studies. Chapter 3
presents a detailed taxonomic analysis of Hungarian intonation
describing twelve meaningful intonation contours (eleven 'character
contours' and one 'appended contour'). Chapter 4 gives an
autosegmental analysis of the data presented in the previous chapter
and proposes that the twelve meaningful intonation contours can be
reduced to three more basic ones. Finally, chapter 5 deals with
phonological phrasing and the syntax-phonology interface showing that
some of the dependencies shown by the melodic contours are rule-
governed. On the stress part, chapter 6 presents a detailed discussion
of three categorically different degrees of stress (major-stress,
minor-stress and zero-stress) and presents some syntactically
triggered deaccentuation rules. In chapter 7 the author presents the
facts of rhythmical variation and phrasal compounds arguing for an
accentual system where the metrical grid is irrelevant in order to
account for them. Finally, chapter 8 gives an overview of secondary
stresses in Hungarian claiming that they are a property of
intonational phrases and not of words. A concluding chapter closes the


As the title shows, the book is a nice example of theoretical analysis
departing from a rich discussion of data. The structure of the book
also reflects this aim since the author first introduces Hungarian
data in a descriptive way, then he gives a more theoretically-oriented
interpretation of them and finally he formulates a rule-based theory
trying to capture the data.

One of the most remarkable contributions of this book is that the
author faces the data with an explanatory purpose and, contrary to
some of the research being developed in intonational phonology
nowadays, he goes further from a mere presentation of anecdotal data
and postulates phonological rules and processes in order to explain
them. For instance, the discussion of the Minor Tonosyntactic Blocks
in chapter 5 does not stop at a pure descriptive level but continues
with an analysis of their interrelations and how the presence of a
given tonosyntactic block affects the next ones. The aim of the author
could be instantiated in the following passage: ''Our melody rules
will have to define what particular contours can or must be assigned
to the major-stressed syllables of the dependent blocks and under what
circumstances'' (p.99). Hence, a sophisticated system of melody rules
is presented in order to capture the data.

Right in the same track it is remarkable as well the autosegmental
formalization of Hungarian intonation in chapter 4. With an in-deep
analysis of the structure of the tunes, the author reduces the twelve
basic patterns of contours presented in the previous chapter to three
more basic ones that are limited to containing just three tones, of
which two adjacent tones are identical: a half falling contour
(notated as H*.L.L$), a high monotone contour (H*.H$) and a monotone
falling contour (H*.H.L.$). This reduction is obtained via the
postulation of a series of melody-building rules that create new,
derived contours out of the basic ones. At the end, Varga presents a
finite-state grammar for Hungarian intonation that captures all the
legitimate contour combinations for this language.

The structure of the book though does not seem to be the most
appropriate one, giving that the part on intonation precedes the part
on stress and I think that it would be much more helpful to have the
reverse order since some knowledge of the basic data of Hungarian
stress would be helpful when dealing with the intonational data.

One of the shortcomings of the book is that it doesn't show any real
data but just abstract representations. Real images showing
fundamental frequency contours would help the reader to interpret the
analysis being developed. Furthermore, it would be interesting to see
experimental evidence supporting the presentation of the twelve basic
contour patterns in chapter 3. This is even more patent in the
discussion of the nature of the accentual system in chapter 7: the
author observes that phonetic intensity differences between major
accents are irrelevant in accounting for rhythmic rules and hence, he
develops an account of these processes based in an approach based in
pitch-accent (� la Gussenhoven (1991)). It would be interesting
though to see real examples with intensity and fundamental frequency
measurements showing these patterns. This lack of real examples
obscures the presentation of the data since in order to specify what
kind of suprasegmental features the author is talking about, he has to
introduce a high amount of notational and terminological devices.

On other grounds, it would be interesting if it included a specific
chapter on information structure, given that Hungarian shows overt
syntactic realization of focus. Some comments of the
prosodic/intonational effects of focalization are provided (like focus
triggering deaccentuation of the verb) but, still, a more specific and
exhaustive data presentation and autosegmental analysis seems to be

Finally, the first words of the book claim that ''the aim of the book
is two-fold. Its primary aim is to provide the international community
of phonologists with a comprehensive description of the intonation and
stress system of Hungarian.... Secondly, but no less important, the
book is meant to be a contribution to current theoretical thinking on
intonation and stress in generative linguistics'' (p.1). I think that
the author achieves both aims with a nice volume, rich both in
discussion of data and theoretical analysis; a concise and precise
introduction to the intonational phonology of Hungarian.


Gussenhoven, C., 1991, 'The English rhythm rule as an accent deletion
rule', in Phonology 8, pp:1-35.

Gussenhoven, C., 2004, The Phonology of Tone and Intonation, Cambridge
(UK), Cambridge University Press.

Ladd, D.R., 1996, Intonational Phonology, Cambridge (UK): Cambridge
University Press.

Pierrehumbert, J., 1980, The Phonetics and Phonology of English
Intonation, PhD. Dissertation: MIT.


Reviewer's research interests: Syntax-phonology interface, focus,
Spell Out, intonational phonology, syntax and semantics of questions.
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