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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Stress patterns and acoustic correlates of stress in Balti Tibetan


In Balti Tibetan, spoken in Baltistan, northern Pakistan, disyllabic non-verbs (nouns, adjectives, and numerals) are stressed on the second syllable (S2). Fundamental frequency is a robust correlate of this S2 stress pattern; vowel duration is a weak and inconsistent cue for stress, while intensity does not play a role. Verbs, in contrast, are stressed on the first syllable (S1); F0, intensity, and vowel duration all contribute to conveying syllable prominence. These findings differ from previous descriptions of Balti in distinguishing stress patterns by lexical category. Further, this is the first work to provide an acoustic characterization of the correlates of stress in Tibetan. As one of the most phonologically conservative varieties of the language, Balti can be considered to preserve the prosodic and acoustic characteristics of Proto-Tibetan. This study thus offers crucial information towards reconstructions of Proto-Tibetan and Proto-Tibeto-Burman, and towards refining hypotheses about Tibetan tonogenesis.

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