Variation of pitch accent patterns in Hungarian

Katalin Mády, Institute of Phonetics and Speech Processing
Felicitas Kleber, Institute of Phonetics and Speech Processing

In Hungarian, focussed elements occur in certain syntactic positions. Because of this limitation, prominence marking by means of prosody is less salient than in languages where focus can be expressed by accent shift without changes in word order. In this study, we examined Hungarian utterances that were identical in their segmental structure, but differed with regard to their semantic and pragmatic interpretations. Our aim was to see to what extent prosodic prominence marking is used, and which pitch accent patterns can occur in different sentence positions in this language. We found that (1) deaccentuation of content words was relatively seldom, (2) accented words were often preceded by a break, (3) the number of accent distribution patterns was limited, as was the number of (4) pitch accent types in utterance-initial and -final position: initially, late peaks dominated, whereas in final position most accent tones were falling ones. We argue that these uniform patterns are probably due to neutralisation processes.