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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Martin PHILIPPE

Conversion of sequences of syllables in a dynamic prosodic structure

Abstract/Résumé: Conversion of sequences of syllables in a dynamic prosodic structure In intonation phonology, approaches such as the Functional-Cognitive (FC), consider the prosodic structure dynamically and not statically, as resulting from a process operating along the time axis. This process involves the concatenation of sequences of syllables perceived by the listener into stress groups, and the hierarchical concatenation of these units into larger intonation units until the whole sentence prosodic structure is obtained. One of the key features of the model is the assumed conversion of sequences of syllables stored in the listener short term memory into stress groups. The role of syllabic stress (excluding emphatic stress) is considered as a triggering element moving stress groups as a higher rank linguistic entity elsewhere in memory and emptying the listener short term syllabic memory so that a new sequence of syllables can be processed. Besides, recent research in the domain of electroencephalography gives interesting details about the mechanisms of brain activity linked to the perception of sentence intonation. These discoveries lead to propose satisfactory explanations pertaining to constrains governing prosodic structures (e.g. stress clash, syntactic clash, eurhythmy, range of stress group duration). These constrains may therefore find their origin in the universality of human brain characteristics. It can be suggested for example, that EEG Delta waves synchronize the conversion of sequences of syllables into stress groups, which may explain why these groups vary in a range between 250 ms and 1000 ms, and limit the number of composing syllables to the order of 7. This allows a reinterpretation of some well-known property of stress in various languages as possible mechanisms triggering the conversion of sequences of syllables into stress groups, among which: a) Absolute position in the syllabic sequence (e.g.: final in French, initial in Finnish); b) Stress as a morphological marker, with stressed syllable determined by the morphological structure of the words in the group (e.g.: ‘capitano vs. capi’tano in Italian); c) Specific rhythmic patterns (e.g.: peng2 you3 –friend- or zi4 xing2 che1 –bicycle- in Mandarin where multisyllabic words are grouped by rhythm); d) Multiple stressed syllables in one converted unit (e.g.: ‘’Über’setzen or ‘Schön’heit in German, Ti’conde’roga in American English); e) Direct identification of a lexical entry. None of these mechanisms could alone explain all syllabic sequences conversions mechanisms in any one language. We can then argue that multiple triggering schemes are used concurrently, which may explain the remarkable resistance to noise of the linguistic system in human communication.