The prosodic expression of focus, contrast and givenness: A production study of Hungarian

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This paper reports the results of a production experiment that explores the prosodic realization of focus in Hungarian, a language that is characterized by obligatory syntactic focus marking. Our study investigates narrow focus in sentences in which focus is unambiguously marked by syntactic means, comparing it to broad focus sentences. Potential independent effects of the salience (textual givenness) of the background of the narrow focus and the contrastiveness of the focus are controlled for and are also examined.
The results show that both continuous phonetic measures and categorical factors such as the distribution of contour types are affected by the focus-related factors, despite the presence of syntactic focus marking. The phonetic effects found are mostly parallel to those of typical prosodic focus marking languages like English. The prosodic prominence required of focus is realized through changes to the scaling and slope of F0 targets and contours. The asymmetric prominence relation between the focus and the background can be expressed not only by the phonetic marking of the prominence of the focused element, but also by the phonetic marking of the reduced prominence of the background. Furthermore, contrastiveness of focus and (textual) givenness of the background show independent phonetic effects, both of them affecting the realization of the background. These results are argued to shed light on alternative approaches to the information structural notion of contrastive focus and the relation between the notions of focus and givenness.


External organisations
  • University of Potsdam
  • Hungarian Academy of Sciences
  • Pázmány Péter Catholic University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Specific Languages


  • Hungarian, prosody, focus, background, givenness, contrast
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-204
Number of pages22
Volume165 Part B
Early online date2014 Sep 6
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Oct
Publication categoryResearch