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Unilang: the Prosodics

From:Oskar Gudlaugsson <hr_oskar@...>
Date:Thursday, April 19, 2001, 11:34
Prosodics are a complicated thing, and often considered one of the hardest
aspects of a language. I don't find them to be the hardest, myself; I think
the general ignorance of prosodics stems from the fact that our
orthographies do not always represent them adequately.

Intonation patterns are very ingrained in people, and constitute a major
factor in foreign accents. We could hardly impose any specific intonation
pattern on unilang speakers. It would rather be better to use plenty of
segmental-based word particles, "emphatics", to express some of the
subtleties which we convey by intonation in English; there are plenty of
natlangs that do this already. Speakers should be able to import, roughly,
the intonation pattern of their own language, in their pronunciation of the

But it would still be advantageous, I believe, to maintain one prosodic
feature in the unilang, albeit with a good deal of freedom in its
representation: _accent_. A simple accent feature could be extremely
valuable to the lexicon, and possibly the morphology as well. So each word
(clitics excepted) would have some climatic syllable, an accented syllable;
I am speaking of a phonemic accent.

So what kind of accent? Well, any; any clearly audible emphasis on a single
syllable. Be it pitch, stress, lengthening, volume. Any human should be
relatively capable of this.

By phonemic accent I don't necessarily mean an arbitrary distinction
between two completely unrelated items. Well, perhaps in some cases, but
generally not. In English, stress can make a distinction between an
otherwise homonymic noun and a verb, such as "cónvict" and "convíct";
something like that could be a smart use of the accent.

But generally, I don't know so much about prosodics; I'm sure some people
here have better ideas on how to treat this subject.



Yoon Ha Lee <yl112@...>