Is there a prosodic difference between left-dislocated and heavy subjects? Evidence from spontaneous French

Mathieu Avanzi, Cédric Gendrot, Anne Lacheret-Dujour, chaire de linguistique française, université de Neuchâtel

This paper investigates the prosodic difference between two types of subject-NPs in spontaneous French: left-dislocated NPs (NPs followed by a coreferent pronoun in the subsequent verbal clause, as in mon marii, ili est instituteur, my husbandi hei is a teacher) and heavy NPs (NPs which are not followed by a coreferent pronoun, as in mon mari est instituteur, my husband is a teacher). In order to verify a potential prosodic difference between these two kinds of subject in spontaneous French, two instrumental analyses were conducted: (i) an automatic prominence detection determined whether a boundary tone ends the NP; (ii) a comparison of several acoustic features allowed for the acoustic estimation of the degree of prominence of the NPs of each class. We show that both types of subject-NPs cannot be statistically distinguished according to the measurements on the subject-NPs’ final syllable, even if a tendency towards higher prominence values (detection and degree) for dislocated subjects clearly appears. A great variability within and in-between utterances is observed and is suggested to account for the non-significant differences.