Timing of pitch movements and accentuation of syllables in Dutch

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In this study, the relation between the timing of a rising or falling pitch movement and the syllable it accentuates is investigated. The five-syllable utterance /mamamamama/ was provided with a relatively fast rising or falling pitch movement. The timing of the movement was systematically varied and Dutch subjects were asked to indicate which syllable they perceived as accented. In order to find out where in the pitch movement the cue which induces the percept of accentuation is located, the duration of the pitch movement was varied. In order to find out which segments of the utterance this characteristic is linked to, the duration of the /m/ was varied. The results showed that the percept of accentuation is induced by a change in pitch at the start of the movement. The moment at which the course of pitch starts to change significantly determines which syllable is perceived as accented. If this moment lies some tens of milliseconds before the P-center, i.e., the perceptual moment of occurrence of the syllable, the preceding syllable is perceived as accented. For a rise, a high accent is perceived; for a fall, a low accent. If the pitch change occurs after this moment, the syllable with this P-center is perceived as accented. For the rise, a low accent is then perceived; for the fall, a high accent. This will be discussed in the light of earlier research on accentuation and of theoretical knowledge about pitch accents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2390-2402
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997


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