The emergence of lexical and post-lexical prominence in Italian

A case study




development of prosodic prominence, stress, accent, Italian, Autosegmental Metrical Theory of Intonation


Our study identifies the developmental trajectory of prominence at lexical and post-lexical levels. From very early in life infants are sensitive to lexical stress contrasts, but, due to very limited vocal capabilities, the production of stress contrasts only starts in the second year of age. We address the question of whether, when and how a child learns to differentiate lexical (stress) from post-lexical prominence (accent) by acoustically examining the spontaneous productions of one child from North-East Italy recorded every 3 months from 18 to 36 months of age. Our analysis is cast in the framework of the Autosegmental Metrical Theory of Intonation. Results show that during the child’s prosodic development the duration of IP nuclear vowels increases linearly, the duration of unstressed vowels decreases linearly and the duration of stressed, prenuclear and ip nuclear vowels is progressively but non-linearly adjusted, consistent with the adult prosodic hierarchy.




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