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Rhythm, accentuation and final lengthening in French

Abstract : This article concerns French rhythm. Rhythm (repetition and alternation of similar or opposite patterns) may be perceived at three different levels: the breath group (or intonation group), the prosodic word and the syllable. The breath group level (or intonation group) consists in the repetition and alternation of two highly contrastive global tunes, which resembles Jones' Tune 1 and Tune 2 for English, but the differences between the rising or falling tunes are extremely exaggerated in French. The second level concerns the repetition of an archetypal prosodic word (PW) rising pattern. A PW is composed of one or more lexical words. For a given rhythm, the speaker tends to utter PWs of similar length, regrouping, if necessary, short lexical words in a single PW. The up and down of Fo in French are bounded to boundaries. they are bounded to lexical stresses in English. The last level is characterized by the repetition of open syllables (3/4 of the syllables are open, and half are of CV type). Based on Fraisse's work on “intensive” (with initial accentuation) and “temporal” (with final lengthening) rhythmization, it is concluded that both types of rhythms, intensive and temporal, coexist in French and English; Accentuation (on lexically stressed syllable) is dominant in English (intensive rhythm), and (final) lengthening recessive. In French, temporal rhythm is dominant, but initial accentuation coexists and may prevail in some styles. It is concluded that, if English is interpreted as a “stress language”, French should be considered as a “boundary language”. The notion of “boundary” is cognitively more present in French than the notion of “stress”.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - 11:08:37 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - 2:43:32 PM
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Jacqueline Vaissière. Rhythm, accentuation and final lengthening in French. J. Sundberg, L. Nord, & R. Carlson. (Eds.). Music, Language, Speech and Brain, Macmillan Press, pp.108-120, 1991. ⟨halshs-00363980⟩



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