- Saisiyat as a Pitch Accent Language:Evidence from Acoustic Study of Words
This paper investigates the acoustic realization of lexical-level accent in Saisiyat, an endangered aboriginal language of Taiwan. Accent in Saisiyat usually falls on the ultimate syllable of content words. This phenomenon has been described in previous studies as either "stress" or "accent." Our measurements and analysis of various prosodic parameters of syllable rhyme (F0 height at onset, offset, peak, and valley, as well as pitch range, duration, slope, peak alignment, and intensity peak) suggest that accent in Saisiyat should be classified as pitch accent, because lexical accent is realized by means of specific F0 patterns, rather than duration and intensity. Thus, among three typological categories that have been proposed for languages (lexical tone, lexical stress, and lexical pitch accent), we propose that Saisiyat belongs to the category that has lexical pitch accent.
This paper investigates the acoustic realization of lexical-level accent in Saisiyat, an endangered aboriginal language of Taiwan. Based on the results of this study, we propose that Saisiyat should be classified as a pitch accent language. Accent in Saisiyat content words is fixed on the final syllable, a property that it shares with certain other Taiwanese Austronesian languages. Yeh (2000) formulates the Saisiyat stress rule as follows:2
This rule, however, does not apply to function words or place names.3 [End Page 404]
Zorc (1993) proposes a classification system for Austronesian languages based on their criteria for accent assignment.4 According to this system, accent may be assigned on the basis of: (a) phonemic length and shortness; (b) phonemic accent (quantity or stress) as secondarily introduced, generally due to consonant loss, analogical leveling, or borrowing; (c) length contrasts in the ultima, resulting from compensation for the loss of a consonant; (d) phonemic length, as the result of coalescence (or crasis) of vowels, which does not correspond with stress (pitch accent); (e) phonemic length or shortness, retained sporadically as remnants of a preexisting system; (f) consonant length following a short vowel; (g) oxytone, with accent (with or without secondary vowel lengthening) falling regularly on the ultima; (h) paroxytone, with accent falling regularly on the penult; (i) proparoxytone, with accent falling regularly on a prepenultimate syllable; (j) PAN *e influences accent in a different way from the other vowels; (k) accent is used inflectionally, that is morphemic accent. Zorc categorized Tungho-Saisiyat5 as belonging to category (d) and Saisiyat to category (g). This categorization of Saisiyat accent is congruent with previous observations that accent falls regularly on the ultimate syllable, and that vowel length does not affect pitch accent assignment.6
No previous phonological description of accent/stress in Saisiyat has measured the acoustic properties of prominent syllables. The present study aims to provide a detailed acoustic analysis of Saisiyat accent by measuring the following parameters of syllable rhyme: F0 height at onset, offset, peak, and valley, as well as pitch range, duration, slope, peak alignment, and intensity peak. Analyzing these parameters will allow us to distinguish accented from unaccented syllables, as well as among the accents realized on different syllabic structures. The results of this study provide support for the classification of Saisiyat as a pitch accent language, because lexical accents are made prominent by means of specific F0 patterns rather than by means of duration and intensity.
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: section 2 reviews definitions of pitch accent, describes the acoustic parameters to be investigated, and reviews the literature on the influence of accent and coda types on the realization of prominent syllables. Section 3 describes the methodology used in this study, and section 4 reviews its results. Section 5 discusses the acoustic realization of Saisiyat pitch accents, and the ways in which the current data provide support for classification of Saisiyat as a pitch accent language. [End Page 405]
2. Definitions of the Parameters Under Investigation, Accent Types and Coda Types
2.1 Definitions of Pitch Accent.
The term "pitch accent" was first proposed by Bolinger (1958), who defined it as an actual prominence in an utterance and a major cue to the perception...