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Word Prosody and Intonation of Sgaw Karen

  • Author(s): West, Luke Alexander
  • Advisor(s): Jun, Sun-Ah
  • et al.
Abstract

The prosodic, and specifically intonation, systems of Tibeto-Burman languages have received less attention in research than those of other families. This study investigates the word prosody and intonation of Sgaw Karen, a tonal Tibeto-Burman language of eastern Burma, and finds similarities to both closely related Tibeto-Burman languages and the more distant Sinitic languages like Mandarin. Sentences of varying lengths with controlled tonal environments were elicited from a total of 12 participants (5 male). In terms of word prosody, Sgaw Karen does not exhibit word stress cues, but does maintain a prosodic distinction between the more prominent major syllable and the phonologically reduced minor syllable. In terms of intonation, Sgaw Karen patterns like related Pwo Karen in its limited use of post-lexical tone, which is only present at Intonation Phrase (IP) boundaries. Unlike the intonation systems of Pwo Karen and Mandarin, however, Sgaw Karen exhibits downstep across its Accentual Phrases (AP), similarly to phenomena identified in Tibetan and Burmese.

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