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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Nature of Japanese Pitch Accent: An experimental study Add Dissertation
Author: Yukiko Sugiyama Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: State University of New York, Linguistics and Cognitive Science
Completed in: 2008
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonetics; Psycholinguistics;
Subject Language(s): Japanese
Director(s): Karin Michelson
James Sawusch
Tsan Huang

Abstract: This thesis reports on the results of production and perception experiments
which investigated the nature of lexical accent in Tokyo Japanese (simply
Japanese hereafter). Word prosody of Japanese is often labeled as pitch
accent, characterized by a steep fall in F0 from the accented mora to the
following one. Words that have accent on the final-mora (final-accented
words) and words that have no accent (unaccented words) apparently have the
same tone sequence, yet they differ in that a particle has a surface low
tone after final-accented words while it has a high tone after unaccented
words. It has been debated whether the two accent patterns are identical
when they occur in isolation, and whether the tone on the following
particle is the only acoustic correlate of pitch accent.

In the present study, a computerized database was used to search for all
bimoraic and disyllabic minimal pairs of final-accented and unaccented
words in Japanese. Because word familiarity is known to influence word
recognition and production, only words with a relatively high familiarity
rating were used, resulting in 20 minimal pairs. Ten native Japanese
speakers (five males and females) produced the 20 pairs in isolation and
sentence-medially followed by a particle. The production study found that,
when the two types of words were produced in isolation, they were not
significantly different in either their F0 peak in the second mora or their
F0 rise from the first to second mora. When the words were produced
sentence-medially, there was a significant difference within words, both in
F0 peak and F0 rise. There was also a greater fall in F0 into the following
particle for final-accented words. In the perception experiment, recordings
from the production study were used to create three sets of stimuli: (A)
final-accented and unaccented words produced in isolation, (B)
final-accented and unaccented words excised from a sentence, and (C) words
and the following particle excised from a sentence. The listeners (n=23)
were not able to identify words under conditions (A) or (B). Thus even
though the stimuli type B differed in F0 peak and F0 rise, these acoustic
properties were not sufficient for listeners to identify the words.
Furthermore, the accuracy was only about 80 percent even when there was a
following particle (stimuli type C). However, a strong positive correlation
was found between the accuracy and the size of F0 fall difference between
the two accent patterns in each pair, suggesting that F0 fall played an
important role in perceiving accent. Thus, while accent information was
redundantly present in F0 peak, F0 rise, and F0 fall of words produced in
sentence context, listeners appear to use only the F0 fall into the
following particle for word identification.