Post-focal compression as a prosodic cue for focus perception in Hindi

  • Frank Kügler Goethe University Frankfurt
Keywords: post-focus compression, Hindi intonation, sentence completion, prosody, focus,


Focus in Hindi is prosodically marked by means of post-focal compression (PFC) and the present study examines whether PFC is a prosodic cue that is functionally used by listeners to perceive the focus. In a production study with 30 native Hindi speakers uttering six different ambiguous contrastive ellipsis structures PFC occurred after the focused indirect object, thought not after a focused direct object. These structures served as input for a forced-choice sentence-completion experiment, in which 18 listeners listened to sentence fragments of the matrix clause and were asked to decide which of the two possible objects contrasts (direct object or indirect object) would correctly complete the sentence. Results show that if PFC was absent listeners were unable to choose the intended sentence completion. If PFC was present correct sentence completion judgements increased significantly. Thus PFC is a cue for focus perception in Hindi. Based on the functional load of the pitch register in Hindi, we argue that pitch register represents a further intonational category to consider, at least for languages like Hindi.