The Nature of Word-Accent in English With Special Reference to Duration and Perception

Gomaa, Moustafa Ahmed Moustafa (1988) The Nature of Word-Accent in English With Special Reference to Duration and Perception. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 10999333.pdf] PDF
Download (11MB)


This is mainly a study of accent-based durational differences in syllables in British English. A framework for the study of accent is described. It is characterized by considering the two often separated domains (i. e. one-word utterances and longer utterances) as a single domain. The durational manifestations of the different degrees of accent are then studied. The method adopted is that of comparisons of the durations of syllables with identical syntagmatic and paradigmatic structures, with the average margins of difference being assessed in terms of significance against a reference duration of 40 msec. The condition of identicality in syntagmatic and paradigmatic structures is sometimes abandoned, however, for the sake of widening the scope of the material analysed or studying factors modulating the accent-duration relationship (e. g. speech-rate). The factor of syllable-position is occasionally used as a variable that affects this relationship. The hierarchy proposed for accentual degrees is found to be consistently manifested by duration in a directly proportional relation unless other variables are operative. On the basis of syllable-durations, the dissociation of so-called "word-accent" and "sentence-accent" has been found to be implausible. Comparisons of the durations of syllable-tokens in one-word and longer utterances have been found to produce significant durational variations only when one of two factors is involved: final lengthening, and the change from primary tonic to primary non-tonic accent and vice versa. Both factors are known to operate in both domains. The results of various Tests confirm on the basis of syllable-durations the inconsistency in the marking of secondary accents in the English Pronouncing Dictionary (EPD). It is proposed that further studies of other parameters in relation to accent would find it worthwhile to keep the syntagmatic and paradigmatic structures of syllables constant. Various tenets and theories in the field of perception are then reviewed with respect to accent in the light of the results of a Perception Test. The results of the three Groups of judging informants (i. e. native linguists, native and phonetically naive, and non-native) were found to bear positively on the motor theory of speech perception. Familiarity with linguistic concepts was also found to be one of the factors that positively induced correct judgements. The advantage of native speakers of English over non-native ones was found to be maintained both in terms of the average percentage of correct judgement and of the patterns of incorrect judgement (e. g. opting for another prominent syllable in the word or for a non-prominent one). The deviation of the scores of correct judgements and the patterns of incorrect judgements in the case of given types of word (e. g. deliberately misaccented words and compound words) from the general percentages and patterns were also individually accounted for.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Linguistics
Date of Award: 1988
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1988-77800
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 11:53
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 11:53

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year