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At the intersection between acoustic phonetics and information structure. An empirical investigation on the phonetic realization of vowel length in three Ligurian dialects

English title At the intersection between acoustic phonetics and information structure. An empirical investigation on the phonetic realization of vowel length in three Ligurian dialects
Applicant Filipponio Lorenzo
Number 178932
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Romanisches Seminar Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Romance languages and literature
Start/End 01.06.2018 - 31.05.2022
Approved amount 673'211.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Romance languages and literature
Applied linguistics

Keywords (6)

Non-standard Varieties; Vowel Length; Information Structure; Language Typology; Romance Dialectology; Acoustic Phonetics

Lay Summary (Italian)

Lead
I dialetti liguri offrono le condizioni ideali per uno studio dell’intersezione fra struttura dell’informazione e realizzazione fonetica della quantità vocalica, in grado di apportare un contributo rilevante non solo alla linguistica romanza, ma anche all’attuale ricerca tipologica.
Lay summary

Soggetto e obiettivo

I dialetti parlati in Italia presentano spesso tratti strutturali anche molto distanti dall’italiano. In alcune varietà di area ligure, per esempio, coppie di parole altrimenti identiche si differenziano per la sola lunghezza vocalica (come in genovese fiitu, ‘presto’, ≠ fitu, ‘affitto’). Questo fenomeno ricorre nella regione con gradazioni differenti: è molto radicato in alcune varietà (genovese), è presente in modo meno marcato in altre (dialetti di area centrale) ed è infine assente nei dialetti di estremo Ponente.

Il confronto fra queste situazioni, rappresentate da tre dialetti parlati lungo la fascia costiera che va da Genova al confine francese, offre al ricercatore il terreno ideale per investigare alcuni temi al cuore dell’odierna ricerca linguistica. Il nostro principale interesse è rivolto infatti alla realizzazione della lunghezza vocalica in diversi contesti discorsivi (in cui si esprime, per esempio, l’enfasi su un elemento, oppure il contrasto fra più elementi nel discorso, la correzione, e così via).

La gamma di differenze fonologiche mostrata dai tre dialetti permetterà di illuminare, per mezzo di un’indagine sperimentale, il rapporto fra struttura dell’informazione e correlati acustici.

Contesto socio-scientifico

La fascia costiera ligure sarà il nostro ‘laboratorio’ a cielo aperto, all’interno del quale raccoglieremo dati per mezzo dei più attuali metodi di elicitazione, utilizzando un ampio spettro di test di produzione e percezione.    

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 25.05.2018

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Abstract

The present research project aims at investigating the relation between acoustic phonetics and information structure in three Ligurian dialects. More specifically, we intend to analyze the interplay between vowel duration and information-structural categories (viz. different types of focus) in varieties which differ in the implementation of vowel length: Genoese, Portorino and Ventimigliese.In Genoese, vowel length is robustly attested and represented by many minimal pairs, which concern even unstressed, pretonic syllables; in Ventimigliese, on the contrary, there is no distinction between short and long vowels. In Portorino, one finds a ‘mixed’ situation since vowel length is attested but displays a more restricted distribution than in Genoese (e.g. a smaller number of minimal pairs as well as the absence of contrastive vowel length in unstressed syllables). These differences in the phonological systems of such varieties also hint at the ‘instability’ of vowel length in the Ligurian dialect area.The three dialects represent a typologically interesting configuration, which provides an ideal ground for studying the phonetic representation of information-structural categories in closely related systems, differing, however, in one important phonemic feature.Our research methods involve production tests relying on different elicitation techniques, aimed at gathering read speech as well as (semi-)spontaneous speech, the latter being especially useful for studying information structure in more ‘authentic’ contexts. The results of these tests will be further corroborated by a series of perception experiments.Relying on a large number of subjects, differentiated by age and sex, will also permit to offer sociophonetic observations concerning the differences in production and perception between younger and older speakers. This will also help to empirically test the stability of vowel length in the dialects and in recognizing possible signs of on-going structural changes. Moreover, by eliciting data from the Italian regional varieties spoken in the same dialect areas, we will be able to assess to which extent regional Italian varieties affect the realization of vowel length in the three dialects.In conclusion, our project intends to offer an innovative contribution to Romance dialectology, and more generally to language typology, by focusing on the intersection between phonetics and pragmatics in several under-researched nonstandard varieties.
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