, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 47-96

Bengali intonational phonology

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This paper proposes a phonological analysis of the Bengali intonational system, using a descriptive framework developed by Pierrehumbert (1980) and others. Our analysis bears on a number of theoretical points. We argue that the Bengali facts support a typology of intonational tones that includes only pitch accents and boundary tones, and that the docking sites for boundary tones are the phrase edges provided under the theory of the Prosodic Hierarchy (Selkirk 1980). We show that Bengali intonational contours are governed by the obligatory Contour Principle (OCP), which forbids adjacent identical tones. Underlying contours that violate the OCP are converted to permissible surface forms by a phonological rule. We also bring Bengali data to bear on a long-standing controversy concerning phrasal stress: Bengali can be shown to have a default, phonologically assigned phrasal stress pattern; thus phrasal stress assignment cannot be reduced exclusively to focus and other semantic factors.

We would like to express our appreciation to D. Bolinger, C. Gussenhoven, M. Halle, P. Keating, D. R. Ladd, E. Selkirk, and three reviewers for NLLT for very helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. The pitch tracks below were made using software by Henning Reetz, to whom many thanks. Our research was made possible by Visiting Research Fellowships for Hayes in 1986 and 1988 from the Max-Planck-Institut für Psycholinguistik, Nijmegen.