Prosodic differences among dialects of American English

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The Ohio State University

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Linguistic stress or emphasis can be conveyed by at least four different acoustic cues: change in fundamental frequency (f0), increased duration, greater intensity, and spectral expansion (e.g., Fry, 1955). However, relatively little is known about the prosodic differences among American English dialects, for example, whether and how speakers of different dialects use variation in linguistic stress and how they express emphasis or emotions. The current study is a parametric examination of the extent, range and rate of change of fundamental frequency (f0) along with duration and intensity in English vowels produced in the Midland (central Ohio), the Inland South (western North Carolina), and in the North (southeastern Wisconsin). We will analyze recordings taken from controlled, read sentences from 24 women aged 50-64 years who have spent the majority of their lives in one of the three regions in the United States (Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin). Five vowels were produced in sentences in two consonantal contexts (before a voiced coda and before a voiceless coda) in both stressed and unstressed syllables controlling for syntactic, lexical, and phonetic context. To examine the differences between the dialects, several programs were used to complete the analysis of f0, duration, and intensity. Analysis included tracking f0 over the course of the vowel (using a specially written Matlab program). Following extraction of these f0 tracks, another Matlab program aided the user in correcting f0 tracking errors. Changes in f0 will be displayed in terms of both raw Hz values and semitone excursions from onset values. This study supports the claim that dialects can differ systematically in their use of prosodic cues.



Prosody, Dialect, American English, Fundamental Frequency