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Dissertation Information

Title: Information Structure and Intonation in Hijazi Arabic Add Dissertation
Author: Muhammad Alzaidi Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Essex, MPhil/PhD in Linguistics
Completed in: 2014
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonetics; Phonology; Pragmatics;
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Hijazi
Director(s): Louisa Sadler

Abstract: There is irrefutable evidence that many languages use intonation to express the aspects of the information structure of an utterance. Recently evidence has emerged that languages differ in how information structure (IS) is marked intonationally. This thesis presents experimental work on the prosodic encoding of Information Focus and Contrastive Focus (aspects of IS, that is, concepts relating to the distribution of ‘new’ and ‘contrast’ information) in Hijazi Arabic (an under-researched language). It provides both a phonetic and a phonological analysis of the experimental data, the latter couched in Autosegmental-Metrical Approach. It aims to (i) provide an analysis of the word order in Hijazi Arabic (HA) and how it is used to express IS, and (ii) provide an in-depth and systematic analysis of the ways that intonation is used both phonologically and phonetically to encode neutral focus, information focus, in-situ contrastive focus and ex-situ contrastive focus in four focus structures: sentence-focus, predicate-focus, argument-focus and focus preposing structure.
Based on insights from recent research, we propose two categories of Focus: information focus and contrastive focus. We show how these categories are reflected in HA word order and in intonation.The results show that intonation and not word order is crucial and useful in identifying the focus of the HA utterance. They show that focus has local and global effects on the utterance. Focus attracts the nuclear pitch accent, and compresses the pitch accent(s) of the following word(s). Excursion size and the maximum F0 are found to be the two main acoustic correlates of prosodic focus in HA. Focused words have significantly expanded excursion size, post-focus words have significantly lowered F0, but pre-focus words lack systematic changes.