Phonetics and phonology of Unangan (Eastern Aleut) intonation

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Phonetics and phonology of Unangan (Eastern Aleut) intonation

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Title: Phonetics and phonology of Unangan (Eastern Aleut) intonation
Author: Taff, Alice
Abstract: This dissertation gives the first detailed description of the phonetics and phonology of the intonation system of Unangan (Eastern Aleut), an indigenous Alaskan language. Twelve fluent speakers were recorded giving translations of elicited sentences. The recordings were analyzed instrumentally and the resulting data were 'smoothed' statistically to investigate patterns in the intonation contours. Five types of utterances were investigated: simple declaratives, yes/no questions, two-clause sentences, noun phrases, and focus contrast sentences. Findings include pitch range and distribution for eight of the speakers. Proposed intonation universals supported by Unangan facts are: declination, major syntactic constituency marking by intonation, falling tone associating with closed topics and rising tone associating with open topics, and (possibly) focus marking by pitch prominence. Language specific findings are: the isomorphy of words with intermediate phrases, a characteristic peak-trough contour for words, a characteristic 'cascade' contour for sentences, an apparent syntactic connection between noun phrase structure and intonation, and a sparse use, if any, of pitch accents since there is little evidence of pitch prominence associating with stressed syllables. Declarative and yes-no question contours contrast primarily in sentence-final voicing. A phonological account of the findings is provided using a two-level tone system. The tone inventory includes a H* pitch accent, H, L, LH, and ↑H phrase accents, and L% and H% boundary tones. This research expands the prosodic analysis of the Eskimo/Aleut language family, allowing for comparisons within and outside the family. The findings here for Unangan intonation parallel some aspects of the related language, Central Alaskan Yup'ik: e.g., there is a characteristic contour associated with content words; declaratives and yes-no questions appear to have similar contours.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1999

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