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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of Linguistics

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WPP, No.110: Stress correlates and vowel targets in Tongan


In this study, we determine the acoustic correlates of primary and secondary stress in Tongan. Vowels with primary stress show differences in F0, intensity, duration, F1, and voice quality, but F0 is the best predictor of primary stress. Vowels with secondary stress are mainly cued by a difference in F0. With regards to the effects of stress on the vowel space, we find that all five Tongan vowels are higher in the vowel space (have lower F1) when unstressed, with no differences in F2. Moreover, there is no reduction in the overall size of the vowel space. We interpret this pattern as evidence that unstressed vowels in Tongan are not undergoing centralization, nor are they otherwise reduced. Rather, Tongan speakers have separate targets for stressed and unstressed vowels.

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