Sun Lei, Tuesday 17 March, 16.00-17.00h

Post-focus in Shanghai Chinese

It is well-known that effective speech communication does not only depend on what the speaker is saying, but also the way how he is saying. Take (1) & (2) for example. In (1), the speaker wants to emphasize the fruit Mary bought is an apple not an orange, “apple” would be produced with more prominence. In (2), if the speaker needs to testify that Mary did not steal an apple, but she bought one, the speaker would produce the verb “bought” with more prominence while “apple” in this case would be produced with less prominent as given information. The way how the speaker packages information differently is called information structure. Focus is one of information structure notions. In the examples, to correct wrong information, the speaker produces focused words with high prominence and the same words with less prominence at the post-focus position and such a way is commonly recognized as prosodic encoding of information structure notions.

(1)   Mary bought an orange in the supermarket.

Mary bought an APPLE in the supermarket.

(2)   Mary stole an apple in the supermarket.

Mary BOUGHT an apple in the supermarket.

Much work has been done on how information structure notions are prosodically encoded in languages (Baumann, Grice & Steindamm, 2006; Ishihara & Fe!ry, 2006; Xu, 1997; Chen, 2010). In Chinese languages, pitch range manipulation has been long considered an important strategy of realizing focus: focus expands the pitch range of focused constituents and suppresses the pitch range of post-focused constituents while keeping that of pre-focus words largely intact (Xu, 1999). However, in recent years, a few studies have shown that pitch range compression is not a reliable cue for tonal realization in the post-focus condition as pitch range expansion is also found in some cases. Therefore, an alternative view holds that both post-focus compression and expansion belong to the multifaceted realizations of the weak implementation of post-focus tonal targets, which results from their non-prominent position in prosodic structure (Chen, 2010). To test this hypothesis, an experiment was done to investigate how prosodic realizations of post-focus constituents are constrained by prosodic structure in Shanghai Chinese, a tonal language which is not intelligible with Standard Chinese. We have found that in this language post-focus f0 realizations were absent at the level of Prosodic Word and at the higher level of Phonological Phase pitch range was expanded in some cases and only pitch register lowering was consistently found. We tentatively concluded that pitch register lowering is a phrasal marker in Shanghai Chinese and post-focus realization is constrained by prosodic structure.