Focus, Word Order and Intonation in Hindi


  • Umesh Patil
  • Gerrit Kentner
  • Anja Gollrad
  • Frank Kügler
  • Caroline Fery
  • Shravan Vasishth


A production study is presented that investigates the effects of word order and information structural context on the prosodic realization of declarative sentences in Hindi. Previous work on Hindi intonation has shown that: (i) non-final content words bear rising pitch accents (Moore 1965, Dyrud 2001, Nair 1999); (ii) focused constituents show greater pitch excursion and longer duration and that post-focal material undergoes pitch range reduction (Moore 1965, Harnsberger 1994, Harnsberger and Judge 1996); and (iii) focused constituents may be followed by a phrase break (Moore 1965). By means of a controlled experiment, we investigated the effect of focus in relation to word order variation using 1200 utterances produced by 20 speakers. Fundamental frequency (F0) and duration of constituents were measured in Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) and Object-Subject-Verb (OSV) sentences in different information structural conditions (wide focus, subject focus and object focus). The analyses indicate  that (i) regardless of word order and focus, the constituents are in a strict downstep relationship; (ii) focus is mainly characterized by post-focal pitch range reduction rather than pitch raising of the element in focus; (iii) given expressions that occur pre-focally appear to undergo no reduction; (iv) pitch excursion and duration of the constituents is higher in OSV compared to SOV sentences. A phonological analysis suggests that focus affects pitch scaling and that word order influences prosodic phrasing of the constituents.