The Prosody of Ambiguous Coordinate Structures in Hindi-English Bilinguals



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Across languages, speakers use different prosodic cues to signal information structure. Speakers of English, an intonation language, freely manipulate pitch accents and boundary tones to convey semantic and pragmatic content. Hindi, being a phrase language, is less variable – sentence melody arises primarily from phrasal tones, and is less sensitive to information structure. The differences between these two languages present a valuable opportunity to study people who speak them both. This study aims to investigate the differences in prosody between English and Hindi as spoken by bilinguals. Specifically, in a comparable speech production experiment, we looked at the differences in speakers’ prosodic realizations of sentences containing ambiguous coordination structures. These structures were distributed across four sets of names and six syntactic conditions. We focused our attention on the differences between pitch contours and duration values at syntactic boundaries both within and between English and Hindi. Since participants are bilingual, we also considered the role of language dominance and transfer, and their relationship to the reflection of the syntax-prosody mapping in these productions.


This thesis was written as part of a Special Major in Linguistics and Philosophy.


Prosody, Bilingualism, Syntax-Prosody