Prosodic categories: Production, perception and comprehension

Prosodic categories: Production, perception and comprehension. Ed. by Sónia Frota, Gorka Elordieta, and Pilar Prieto. (Studies in natural language and linguistic theory 82.) Dordrecht: Springer, 2011. Pp. viii, 296. $159 (Hb).
Reviewed by Lori McLain Pierce, University of Texas at Arlington

This book investigates the role of prosody in language grammar and language processing as it interacts with other aspects of the grammar, such as syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. The chapters in the book are a result of the third Tone and Intonation in Europe Conference in 2008. The collection aims to add to the work on prosodic theory by investigating the overlap of phonology, phonetics, and psycholinguistics through empirical methods that include production, perception, and comprehension experiments. The book is organized into twelve chapters that can be grouped into five areas of focus within prosodic phenomena; a subject index follows the chapters for the reader’s convenience.

The book begins with an introduction written by the editors (1–15) of the topics addressed in the chapters as well as an argument for the contribution that the collection makes to the broader understanding of prosodic theory. The topic addressed by the contributors of the first two articles (17–68) is that of prosodic groupings regarding the processing of phonological clitics, compound words, and sentences with structural ambiguities in several languages. The four articles that follow (69–186) examine prosody and focus with regards to pitch accent in English, focus-marking in Dutch child language, information structure and intonation in Nɬeʔkepmxcin, and the Korean accentual phrase.
The next two articles (187–230) investigate the relationship between intonation and meaning through perception experiments with Italian questions and narrow focus statements. The following article (231–42) discusses the three-way quantity distinction in vowels and consonants found in Estonian word prosody and how pitch affects perception of quantity. The final two articles (243–90) discuss the phonetics and phonology of the use of f0 in tonal languages, examining how languages differ in the phonetic representation of the same phonological feature and how tonal languages implement non-tonal strategies to signal grammatical meanings, such as sentence type.

This book provides a multitude of methods from production, comprehension, and perception experiments for investigating the interface between prosody and other elements of the grammar. Production experiments include speech paradigms (both online and prepared), picture-naming, and conversation tasks. In addition, comprehension experiments, including eye-tracking experiments, and perception experiments are used.

Not only is a wide array of experimental methods used, but a variety of languages is also examined. While some are well documented, others like the Salish language Nɬeʔkepmxcin and the Bantu tonal language Shekgalagari are underrepresented in the literature, especially with regards to these prosodic phenomena. By documenting the prosody and prosodic processing of
these lesser-known languages, the field has a better understanding of how these phenomena compare crosslinguistically.

Overall, this book is recommended for researchers in the fields of phonology, phonetics, and psycholinguistics. While some background in these fields would be useful to better understand the implications of the research, each chapter outlines previous work in the area under investigation and gives detailed accounts of methodology, at times even including pictures to ensure the reader’s comprehension.