The Prosodic Contours of Jaminjung, a Language of Northern Australia

  • Candide Simard

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is a description of the prosodic patterns in Jaminjung, a language spoken in the Victoria River District in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is a quantitative and qualitative examination of the features associated with the intonational phenomena in Jaminjung. It is based on the idea that, while some aspects of prosody may be universal, each language has its unique characteristics. In this study I will make use of the PENTA model of intonation, a recent development that places communicative functions and articulatory constraints at the core of prosody, thus providing a clear explanation of prosodic phenomena, linking phonetics to semantics. The analyses are based on carefully selected representative tokens of the speech used in specific communicative situations by the Jaminjung speakers from recordings of spontaneous speech. The features associated with the grouping function, that is, in the demarcation or organization of a string of words (or rather syllables) into chunks, are examined. Four main prosodic constituents are recognized: the prosodic word, the phrasal constituent, the intonation unit, and the prosodic sentence. They are distinguished at their left boundaries by pitch resets which increase from unit to unit. The larger constituents are cued at the right edge with F0 lowering and syllable lengthening, cues associated with finality in many languages. The encoding parameters of some major information structural categories, topic and focus and contrast are investigated. A prominence is usually perceived on the first syllable in the focus domain. A [fall] pitch target is associated with this syllable; it is also marked by wider pitch excursions and longer durations. Topics, for their part, are marked by a [high] target on their initial syllables. The prosodic encoding of topics follows a scale of 'givenness', where more given topics are less marked than less given topics. Contrast in focused arguments and topics is encoded with a [fall] target on the initial syllable and thus share this feature with focus, but they also display a wider pitch excursion on all the syllables. This last feature marks contrast as an independent information structure category from focus and topic. Declaratives, interrogatives and imperatives sentences are all predominantly uttered with a falling contour, however, they are clearly differentiated by pitch register - declaratives use lower reaches, imperatives higher reaches, and interrogatives somewhere in between.
Date of Award31 Dec 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorEva Schultze-Berndt (Supervisor) & Kristine Ann Hildebrandt (Supervisor)


  • Intonational typology
  • Intonation
  • PENTA model
  • Australian languages
  • Prosody
  • Information structure

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