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The Structure of Tonal Representations - Evidence from Tune-Text Synchronisation

  • Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
  • First phase: March 2005 - February 2007
  • Second phase: March 2007 - February 2009



  • Dr. Stefan Baumann, IfL-Phonetik, Universität zu Köln
  • Student assistants: Nils Jagdfeld & Stephanie Eden, IfL-Phonetik, Universität zu Köln

Project summary - first phase

In intonational phonology it is generally agreed that tones are not simply concatenated like beads on a string. However, there is no consensus as to how these tones are phonologically structured. Here we propose to develop a model of tonal representation using evidence from tune-text synchronisation within and across three varieties of German (those spoken in Vienna, Düsseldorf and Kiel).

This involves the alignment of tonal targets in the form of fundamental frequency (F0) events (minima and maxima) with landmarks relating to the sounds spoken, which serve as anchors for the targets. Evidence for tonal structure will be gained from production data at the acoustic and articulatory levels and from perception experiments. In the acoustic studies, landmarks are taken to be acoustically defined onsets and offsets of vowels and consonants; in the articulatory study landmarks are articulatory minima and maxima (measured using electromagnetic articulography) correponding to vocalic and consonantal gestures. The key to how the underlying tones relate to each other and to the text which carries them is provided by examining which alignment properties are robust across a variety of conditions, in particular across different articulation rates, levels of emphasis, and syllable structures. Robustness of alignment will reveal those aspects of alignment which are a result of phonetic implementation and those which should be interpreted as part of the phonology of a particular language variety. The gestural approach will additionally provide insights into laryngeal and supralaryngeal synchronisation, which will in turn contribute towards developing cognitive models of speech production.

Project summary - second phase

In this second phase of the project we aim to provide a theoretical contribution towards a model of intonation structure, arguing that a number of pitch accents should be regarded as derived from an underlying representation which is not fully specified as to the association properties of certain tones.

The introduction of derived pitch accents allows us to constrain the inventory in a meaningful way. Although much can be learnt about association from examining the details of how tonal targets are aligned, an understanding of our results demands a closer look at where tonal targets are situated in the frequency domain – that is, their scaling. In a number of production and perception studies evidence from both the time and frequency domains will be used to investigate the phonological identity of pitch accents and to ascertain whether variation is phonological or phonetic.

Results will contribute to the further development of our theoretical model and to a revised version of the prosodic annotation system, GToBI. Evidence from the alignment of tonal targets with articulatory movements will be used to model the coordination between supralaryngeal and laryngeal gestures in articulatory synthesis. Our experiments will concentrate on a comparison between two varieties of German, those from Düsseldorf and Vienna.


  • Grice, Martine, Stefan Baumann & Nils Jagdfeld (in press). Tonal association and derived nuclear accents: the case of downstepping contours in German. Lingua. 25 pages. (PDF)
  • Mücke, Doris, Martine Grice, Anne Hermes & Johannes Becker (accepted). Sources of variation in tonal alignment: Evidence from acoustic and kinematic data. Journal of Phonetics.
  • Rathcke, Tamara & Jonathan Harrington (to appear). The variability of early accent peaks in Standard German. LabPhon 10. (PDF)
  • Mücke, Doris, Grice, Martine & Hermes, Anne (2008). Coordination of tones and vowel gestures in German nuclear pitch accents. Workshop: Consonant Clusters and Structural Complexity, 31 July-2 August 2008, Munich, Germany.
  • Mücke, Doris, Martine Grice, Anne Hermes & Johannes Becker (2008). Prenuclear Rises in Northern and Southern German. Proceedings Speech Prosody 2008, Campinas, Brasil. 245-248. (PDF)
  • Mücke, Doris, Martine Grice & Anne Hermes (2008). The vowel triggers the tone: evidence from German, PCC 2008, Beijing, China.
  • Grice, Martine & Stefan Baumann (2007). Models of Intonation. In: Trouvain, Jürgen & Ulrike Gut (eds.), Non-native prosody: phonetic descriptions and teaching practice, "Trends in Linguistics", Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 25-51.
  • Grice, Martine, Stefan Baumann & Nils Jagdfeld (2007). Evidence for Tonal Identity from Peak Scaling under Pitch Span Variation. Proceedings 16th ICPhS, Saarbrücken. 977-980. (PDF)
  • Mücke, Doris & Anne Hermes (2007). Phrase Boundaries and Peak Alignment: An Acoustic and Articulatory Study. Proceedings 16th ICPhS, Saarbrücken, Germany. 997-1000.
  • Prieto, Pilar, Doris Mücke, Johannes Becker & Martine Grice (2007) Coordination patterns between pitch movements and oral gestures in Catalan. Proceedings 16th ICPhS, Saarbrücken, Germany. 989-992.
  • Savino, Michelina, Martine Grice (2007) The role of pitch range in realizing pragmatic contrasts. Proceedings 16th ICPhS, Saarbrücken, Germany. 1037-1040.
  • Baumann, Stefan (2006). Information Structure and Prosody: Linguistic Categories for Spoken Language Annotation. In: Sudhoff, Stefan, Denisa Lenertová, Roland Meyer, Sandra Pappert, Petra Augurzky, Ina Mleinek, Nicole Richter & Johannes Schließer (eds.), Methods in Empirical Prosody Research. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter (= Language, Context, and Cognition 3). 153-180. (PDF)
  • Baumann, Stefan & Martine Grice (2006). The Intonation of Accessibility. Journal of Pragmatics 38 (10). 1636-1657. (PDF)
  • Grice, Martine (2006). Tonal Association and Derived Nuclear Accents. International Conference on the Typology of Tone and Intonation, Berlin: 7-9 September, 2006. (Abstract)
  • Grice, Martine (2006). Intonation. In: Brown, Keith (ed.) Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd Edition, Elsevier: Oxford. (PDF)
  • Mücke, Doris & Martine Grice (2006). On the synchronisation of articulatory gestures with accentual F0 peaks. Stem-, Spraak- en Taalpathologie 14, Supplement. 5th International Conference on Speech Motor Control Nijmegen. (Abstract)
  • Mücke, Doris & Martine Grice (2006). Articulatory anchors for tonal targets in rising pitch accents. Poster presentation: 10th Conference on Laboratory Phonology, Paris, June 29 - July 1, 2006. (Abstract)
  • Mücke, Doris, Martine Grice, Johannes Becker, Anne Hermes & Stefan Baumann (2006). Articulatory and acoustic correlates of prenuclear and nuclear accents. Proceedings Speech Prosody 2006, Dresden, Germany. 297-300. (PDF)
  • Rathcke, Tamara & Jonathan Harrington (2006). Is there a distinction between H+!H* and H+L* in standard German? Evidence from an acoustic and auditory analysis. Proceedings Speech Prosody 2006, Dresden, Germany. (PDF)
  • Baumann, Stefan (2005). Degrees of Givenness and their Prosodic Marking. Poster Presentation: International Symposium on Discourse and Prosody as a complex interface, Aix-en-Provence. (PDF)