High Initial Tones and Plateaux in Brazilian Portuguese: Implications for Stress in Portuguese and Spanish

Letania Ferreira, Augustana College

This paper investigates the presence of phrase-initial high tones (Hi) in Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and in Peninsular Spanish neutral declaratives. Like in other recent work, we observe that neutral declarative sentences in BP very frequently present high initial pitch events, which may be classified as either pitch accents or phrasal tones. We further observe that phrasal tones in initial position in BP neutral declaratives can be expressed as either a peak or a plateau. By analyzing comparable materials in Peninsular Spanish, we conclude that his language lacks the phrase-initial high tone phenomenon, also in agreement with previous work. We argue that F0 is a less reliable cue of stress in BP than in Spanish, since pitch excursions frequently occur on phrase-initial syllables that lack lexical stress. To compensate for this diminished reliability, duration plays a much greater role as a cue of lexical stress in BP than in Spanish. As the reliability of F0 as a cue of stress decreases, the reliability of another stress cue increases.