Abstract The current theoretical framework used to describe Spanish intonation, or the Autosegmental Metrical theory (AM), asserts that in any given utterance stressed words have their own individual high or low tones, each independent of the last (Pierrehumbert 1980). When mapped in Spanish, this intonation exhibits a rhythmic “rising and falling” pattern. Recently, Rogers (2013) documented an intonation pattern in Chilean Spanish not previously seen in any other variety of Spanish that cannot be adequately explained by AM. This pattern is described as a “plateau” that consists of two portions: a low-tonal portion, or “valley” and a high-tonal portion, or “plateau”. In both portions all the content is realized at the same relative tonal level. In other words, every word spoken in the low-tonal portion is maintained at the same low tonal level with little to no variation among traditionally stressed words, and words spoken in the high-tonal, “plateau” portion are maintained at the same high tonal level with little to no variation among traditionally stressed words. Likewise, each portion can extend or contract to include a wide variety of content. That all the respective words in these plateau patterns belong to the same singular low- or high-tonal levels stands in contrast to the rhythmic, “rising and falling” pattern that is widely acknowledged in applications of AM to Spanish intonation. In addition to its contrast with AM more broadly, these plateau patterns present two further, more nuanced challenges to the current understanding of Spanish intonation. First, one of the cognitive/linguistic roles that intonation contributes to in human language is the parsing of an utterance into smaller “chunks”, or portions, of information (D’Imperio et al. 2005, Ladd 2008 among others). This division of information is regulated by specific rules (Gussenhoven 2004, Ladd 2008). These rules have been used to construct what is known as the Prosodic Hierarchy wherein an utterance can be divided into smaller phrases and parts. Each level of the Hierarchy governs all the levels below it and is simultaneously governed by those levels above it (Gussenhoven 2004). Of particular interest to the current dissertation are the levels of Intonational Phrases (IPs) and Phonlogical Phrases (PPhs). Studies on Spanish intonation have suggested that the absolute limit for content words in a PPh is four, with the ideal number frequently being two (e.g. Prieto 2006, Rao 2007). These limits are thought to be determined by cognitive processes and the intended meaning that a speaker attaches to a given utterance (Christophe et. al 2004). Chilean Spanish intonational plateaus frequently push and exceed these previously established thresholds. Second, the different subsyestems that make up language do not work in isolation; rather, they frequently work collectively to create unique meanings. One of these subsystems that often works with intonation is syntax (e.g. Price, et al. 1991, Frazier et al. 2004). The data show that the Chilean Spanish plateau patterns create nuanced challenges for analyzing the intonation-syntax interaction. Specifically, because of the sheer amount of information that speakers can include in both the low and high portions of these patterns, for speakers of Chilean Spanish the intonation-syntax interaction potentially plays a different organizational role in conveying meaning than in other varieties of Spanish. The current dissertation examines these theoretical problems using natural speech data from 40 speakers hailing from 3 different regions of Chile: Santiago, Concepción, and Temuco. Through analyses of the prosodic and syntactic behaviors of the plateau patterns, it is demonstrated that the theoretical frameworks AM and the Prosodic Hierarchy cannnot adequately account for all of the data. As a result, significant modifications are proposed to allow the current AM and Prosodic Hierarchy frameworks account for all the Chilean Spanish intonational plateau data. Specifically, it is proposed that to satisfactorily account for all of the data, any theoretical approach must first seek to describe the patterns from a more speaker-centered pragmatic angle while acknowledging that tonal events can be extended to contain a varying amount of traditionally stressed and unstressed content. While such an approach does not discard the phonological origins of the patterns, it asserts that pragmatics and the communicative intentions of speakers are the principal motivators for the realization of the Chilean Spanish intonational plateau patterns, with phonological factors assuming a secondary role. Finally, barring an ex nihilo explanation, the lack of intonational plateau patterns in any other dialect of Spanish is suggestive of an outside origin for the Chilean Spanish plateaus. One possible explanation is that these patterns came into Chilean Spanish via contact with another language. Studies have shown how intonation in other Spanish dialects has been influenced by contact with other languages (O’Rourke 2005, Colantoni 2011 among others). These scholars further suggest that intonation is one of the aspects of language most easily influenced by contact with other languages. Chilean Spanish has made contact with several Amerindian languages for decades, the principal of which has been Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche people. The present dissertation analyzes Mapudungun interviews conducted by Smeets (2008) and documents similar intonational plateau patterns in Mapudungun intonation. The data demonstrate that Mapudungun intonational plateaus and Chilean Spanish intonational plateaus behave very similarly at different prosodic, syntactic, and pragmatic levels. Thus, it is also proposed that contact with Mapudungun is the best possible source for the emergence of these unique intonational patterns in Chilean Spanish.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2016. Major: Hispanic and Luso Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics. Advisor: Timothy Face. 1 computer file (PDF); xx, 266 pages.
When Theory and Reality Collide: Exploring Chilean Spanish Intonational Plateaus.
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