Russian Pitch Accents Defined

Cecilia Odé, University of Amsterdam

At present, a new manual transcription system of Russian intonation is under development: ToRI (Transcription of Russian Intonation), described in Odé (2003). ToRI is inspired by the Dutch transcription system ToDI (Gussenhoven 2005, Gussenhoven et al. 2003). Reasons to develop ToRI against the background of the rich literature on Russian intonation have been discussed in Keijsper (1992) and Odé (1992, 2003). ToRI will use unambiguous transcription symbols for the prosodic labelling of experimentally verified forms and communicative functions of types of pitch accent, including perceptually relevant non-prominence lending pitch movements connecting the pitch accents, and pitch phenomena at boundaries.

For this transcription system, new perception experiments on establishing forms and communicative functions of pitch accents have recently been carried out (Odé 2005; forthcoming), in which subjects were asked to evaluate the perceptual equivalence of realizations of types of pitch accent in paired-comparison tests. In the Russian instructions for these experiments, participating native listeners, all phonetician-linguists, were informed about the type of task they had to fulfil. After a practice session, they were also given the opportunity to ask questions. It is of fundamental importance that the notion pitch accent (тональный акцент), used in the instructions, is well understood. In my definition, based on the works on intonation by Bolinger (e.g. 1986), in an intonation language a pitch accent is a pitch movement or configuration of pitch movements lending perceptual prominence to a syllable (Odé 1989:23ff.). In order to warrant that all subjects indeed judge the perceptual equivalence of realizations of types of pitch accent precisely in this sense, the term needed to be extensively explained. In the Russian literature on intonation, other terms for pitch accent are used: фразовое, логическое, мелодическое, музыкальное, or тоническое ударение. The term pitch accent is also not without problems: in different linguistic approaches to the analysis of intonation, different definitions of the term exist. With audiovisual examples, I will discuss the issue with details of the experiments and I will demonstrate how, in the context of ToRI, the term pitch accent is defined. I will also show how in the ToRI system, transcription symbols will be used to express pitch phenomena in Russian.

Bolinger, D. (1986) Intonation and its Parts. Melody in Spoken English. London: Edward    Arnold.

Gussenhoven, C. (2005) “Transcription of Dutch intonation”. Sun-Ah Jun (Ed.), Prosodic Typology - The Phonology of Intonation and Phrasing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 118-145.

Gussenhoven, C., Rietveld, T., Kerkhoff, J. & Terken, J. (2003) ToDI, Transcription of Dutch intonation,  Courseware, Second Edition. Nijmegen:

Keijsper, C.E. (1992) “Recent intonation research and its implications for teaching Russian”. Studies in Russian Linguistics, Studies in  Slavic and General Linguistics 17. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 151-214.

Odé, C. (1989) Russian Intonation: A Perceptual Description. Amsterdam-Atlanta: Rodopi.

Odé, C. (1992) Perceptivnaia ekvivalentnost’ realizatsii intonatsi­onnykh konstruktsii E.A. Bryzgunovoi, Studies in Russian Linguistics, Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics 17. Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. 227-284.

Odé, C. (2003) “Description and Transcription of Russian Intonation (ToRI)”. Dutch Contributions  to the Thirteenth International Congress of Slavists, Ljubljana. Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics vol.30, P. Houtzagers, J. Kalsbeek, J. Schaeken (Eds). Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 279-288.

Odé, C. (2005, in press) “Neutralization or truncation? The perception of two Russian pitch accents on utterance-final syllables”.  Speech Communication, Vol. 47.

Odé, C. (forthcoming) “Communicative functions and prosodic labelling of three Russian rising pitch accents”. Invited article, 17p