Prosody of discontinuous nominal phrases in Indian languages

  • Caroline Féry University of Frankfurt
  • Gisbert Fanselow University of Potsdam


The purpose of this survey is to compare the tonal and prosodic structure of discontinuous nominal phrases in several Indian languages with those of the better studied intonation languages, such as English and German. From a syntactic perspective, the SOV base order and the free constituent order property in nearly all Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, and Tibeto-Burman languages lead to a fairly rich system of discontinuous NPs of the type involving two independently generated NPs. From a prosodic perspective, the Indian languages discussed in the article are prototypical examples of phrase languages, i.e., the intonation is not dependent on variable pitch accent placement, but is rather based on the existence of prosodic domains, each with a characteristic ‘phrasal’ intonation. We will see that the division between cohesive and non-cohesive patterns that has been made for intonation languages is blurred in these languages. In line with this observation on prosody, the hierarchy-preserving and hierarchy-inverting discontinuous nominal phrases are not always easy to tell apart syntactically.