Japanese focus prosody revisited: Freeing focus from prosodic phrasing

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This paper revisits empirical and theoretical problems of focus prosody in Japanese, and proposes a new analysis. Contrary to the widely accepted assumption that focus directly or indirectly modifies prosodic phrasing, various studies have shown that prosodic boundaries remain unchanged when a focus is added to a sentence. It is proposed that phonetic effects of focus (F0-rise on the focused word, and reduction in the post-focal areas) result from manipulations of metrical prominences (addition of focal prominence on the focused word and deletion of head prominences in the post-focal area) that have no effect on prosodic boundaries. In order to allow prominence manipulation while keeping prosodic phrasing intact, two modifications are made to one of the widely accepted Optimality-Theoretic analyses of focus prosody. First, the syntax-prosody alignment constraint will be ranked higher, which allows it to dictate the location of prosodic boundaries. Second, metrical culminativity (one metrical prominence per prosodic constituent) is treated as a violable constraint, and it is proposed that this constraint is low-ranked in Japanese. As a result, Japanese allows multi-headed phrases (when focus adds a prominence), as well as headless prosodic phrases (when focus deletes post-focal prominences).


External organisations
  • Goethe University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Specific Languages


  • Culminativity, Focus, Japanese, Phrasing, Prominence, Prosody
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1870-1889
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Oct 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes