Regional variation in the realization of intonation contours in the Netherlands

Author: Judith Hanssen
LOT Number: 447
ISBN: 978-94-6093-229-8
Pages: 200
Year: 2017
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Although it had never been systematically studied, it is commonly assumed that Dutch (non-tonal) dialects have their own characteristic sentence melodies, and that intonation is a cue someone’s origins. The present thesis explored how 120 speakers of six varieties spoken in the Netherlands pronounced intonation contours in various contexts.

Intonation contours that appear on final syllables are often not fully pronounced. First, a detailed investigation showed how speakers preferred different strategies in dealing with such time pressure. Some chose to speed up the contour, whereas others ended it prematurely. Some also created more time for the contour by realizing tones earlier or increasing syllable durations.

Next, our study showed that realizational variation follows a geographical cline. The two geographically most extreme varieties, in Southwestern Zeeland and Northeastern Groningen, differed most from each other, with the other varieties generally in between. Zeeland speakers had the shortest segmental durations and the lowest, shallowest and smallest contours, compared to longer, higher, steeper and larger contours in the North-East.

Finally, melody preferences and non-standard realizations were studied in statements, questions and rhetorical questions. Speakers of Zeelandic Dutch uniquely used falling contours on both statements and questions, though pronouncing them differently. These speakers also had a striking rising-rising pronunciation of the melody used in rhetorical questions, unlike the more common rising-falling-rising melody in the other varieties. Finally, falling melodies in Amsterdam were particularly flat and long, often with a late peak.

This dissertation will be of interest to those working on phonetics, prosody and phonology as well as dialectology.

Although it had never been systematically studied, it is commonly assumed that Dutch (non-tonal) dialects have their own characteristic sentence melodies, and that intonation is a cue someone’s origins. The present thesis explored how 120 speakers of six varieties spoken in the Netherlands pronounced intonation contours in various contexts.

Intonation contours that appear on final syllables are often not fully pronounced. First, a detailed investigation showed how speakers preferred different strategies in dealing with such time pressure. Some chose to speed up the contour, whereas others ended it prematurely. Some also created more time for the contour by realizing tones earlier or increasing syllable durations.

Next, our study showed that realizational variation follows a geographical cline. The two geographically most extreme varieties, in Southwestern Zeeland and Northeastern Groningen, differed most from each other, with the other varieties generally in between. Zeeland speakers had the shortest segmental durations and the lowest, shallowest and smallest contours, compared to longer, higher, steeper and larger contours in the North-East.

Finally, melody preferences and non-standard realizations were studied in statements, questions and rhetorical questions. Speakers of Zeelandic Dutch uniquely used falling contours on both statements and questions, though pronouncing them differently. These speakers also had a striking rising-rising pronunciation of the melody used in rhetorical questions, unlike the more common rising-falling-rising melody in the other varieties. Finally, falling melodies in Amsterdam were particularly flat and long, often with a late peak.

This dissertation will be of interest to those working on phonetics, prosody and phonology as well as dialectology.

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