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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of Linguistics

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WPP, No. 108: Acoustic correlates of stress and their use in diagnosing syllable fusion in Tongan


The goals of this study were to determine the acoustic correlates of primary and secondary stress in Tongan, and to use these correlates in diagnosing syllable fusion, an alleged phonological process in the language by which sequences of vowels can fuse into a single syllable. Using recordings of one female native speaker, we found that pitch, duration, and vowel quality appear to be strong cues for primary stress, but intensity and voice quality can differentiate stressed from unstressed tokens for certain vowels. For secondary stress, only F0 was found to differentiate stressed from unstressed vowels, but the effect was smaller than for primary stress. Using these correlates of stress, we found evidence for syllable fusion in Tongan based on pitch and voice quality contours as well as differences in vowel height.

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