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The University of Texas at Arlington




The interconnections that exist among prosody, clause structure, and discourse pragmatics have been noted by many linguists (e.g., Halliday 1967; Givon 1983; Longacre 1983). These interconnections have included such phenomena as pausing after a paragraph or episode, and other interconnections have concerned characteristics of certain types of discourse such as narrative in which the use of intonation indicates topic and/or focus. Still others pertain to changes in clause structure which characterize certain sections of a discourse, such as peak, where clauses may display unusual word ordering, inflection, and unique intonation (Longacre 1983). However, few of these interconnections have been studied quantitatively and systematically.

This study is a systematic investigation of the links among prosody, clause structure, and discourse pragmatics in four oral narratives of Tarifit, a VSO Berber language spoken in northeastern Morocco. Using the speech analysis program Signalyze, levels of amplitude, fundamental frequency, length, and speed were analyzed. In addition, factors relating to clause structure (word order and clause constituency) and discourse pragmatics (discourse profile, storyline, episode boundaries, and topic and focus) were quantified using the program Excel. Excel charting revealed connections of prosody to clause structure and discourse pragmatics, but the weights of these connections were not apparent. A variable rule program, Goldvarb, was used in filling this gap to demonstrate the relative strengths of correlation among the three sets of factors.

The results of this investigation support some, but not all, claims of previous researchers, and revealed numerous additional interrelations not previously noted. For example, amplitude and frequency proued to operate independently; prominences of amplitude are part of climax clauses and topic/focus, while prominences of frequency are tied to clause constituency (i.e., accompanying major clause constituents such as verbs and subjects). Also, there were more and stronger correlations between discourse pragmatics and prosody than between discourse pragmatics and clause structure.

These results suggest that prosody in relation to discourse pragmatics and clause structure may be a rich field of future linguistic endeavor. They also contribute to greater knowledge of a little known language in North Africa.