An acoustic analysis of contrastive focus marking in Spanish-K'ichee' (Mayan) bilingual intonation
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Natural language enables speakers to organize and highlight the information they want to convey. The linguistic analysis of this organization, known as Information Structure (Lambrecht, 1994), investigates the different strategies used in various languages to mark important information, such as focus constituents, within larger utterances. Research on K'ichee' has predominantly documented the syntactic strategies used to mark constituents for focus and has yet to analyze the role of intonation (Can Pixabaj & England, 2011). While the use of intonation in focus marking in different varieties of Spanish has received more attention than in K'ichee', the consideration of its role within bilingual contexts is under documented (O'Rourke, 2005; Simonet, 2008). This dissertation addresses these gaps in the literature by analyzing the intonational contours associated with contrastive focus constituents in both languages of Spanish-K'ichee' bilinguals and comparing these contours cross-linguistically. These analyses investigate different suprasegmental features of contrastive focus within different syntactic structures and their correlation with the individual level of language dominance of each bilingual. This study provides evidence that these bilinguals prosodically mark contrastive focus in both languages in similar ways. The first significant finding is that an earlier alignment of the intonational events, and not a greater pitch span, is the most consistently used strategy in both languages. Additionally, while a greater pitch span is not consistently used to mark contrastive focus, it is the only suprasegmental feature that is correlated with bilingual language dominance in both Spanish and K'ichee'. Finally, while some dialect-specific phonological features provide evidence of transfer between the two languages, the features that are the most similar in both languages and possibly the most prone to convergence are the same that are consistently used to mark contrastive focus, i.e., the alignment of intonational events. The present study contributes to the ongoing analyses of Information Structure, intonation, and bilingualism, and it is proposed that frameworks such as the Autosegmental-Metrical model of intonation (Pierrehumbert, 1980), Accomodation Theory (Giles & Powesland, 1975), and the Effort Code (Gussenhoven, 2004) can be extended to these findings on the role of the location of intonational events in both prosodic contrastive focus marking and convergence of intonational systems of bilinguals.