The manifestation of intonational focus in Castilian Spanish

Mercedes Cabrera Abreu, María Luisa García Lecumberri


In this paper we study the phonological manifestation of various intonational focus domains in Castilian Spanish. We propose that downstep is one of the intonational signallers of focus in this language. The phonological problems of accounting for this phenomenon in Pierrehumbertian models are explored. Alternative solutions are offered following the single-tone model put forward by Cabrera Abreu (2000) within the Government Phonology framework, taking into account other proposals by the author and her co-workers. Typically, the prefocal and focal items participate in licensing relations which integrate them in a well-formed phonological structure in terms of onsets and nuclei respectively as the only two possible constituents within another major constituent, the intonation group. Pitch movements in the prefocal and focal items in the various focus domains are accounted for by the presence / absence of T(one) associated to different constituent boundaries. In addition, the constituent licensing the focal item is preceded by an intonation group whose nuclear constituent is empty, thus showing toneless boundaries which are responsible for the observed downstep effect.


intonational focus, phonological representations, downstep, licensing relations, onset, nucleus, intonation group, T(one), tone association, constituent boundaries, empty nucleus

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Copyright (c) 2003 Mercedes Cabrera Abreu, María Luisa García Lecumberri