Banner Portal
The role of f0 alignment in distinguishing intonation categories: evidence from American english


Fundamental frequency
autoSegmental-metrical theory
Tonal alignment
Pitch accents

How to Cite

Dilley LC, Heffner CC. The role of f0 alignment in distinguishing intonation categories: evidence from American english . J. of Speech Sci. [Internet]. 2021 Feb. 5 [cited 2024 May 21];3(1):3-67. Available from:


Under the autosegmental-metrical (AM) theory of intonation, the temporal alignment of fundamental frequency (F0) patterns with respect to syllables has been claimed to distinguish pitch accent categories. Several experiments test whether differences in F0 peak or valley alignment in American English phrases would produce evidence consistent with a change from (1) a H* to a H+L* pitch accent, and (2) a L* to a L+H* pitch accent. Four stimulus series were constructed in which F0 peak or valley alignment was shifted across portions of short phrases with varying stress. In Experiment 1, participants discriminated pairs of stimuli in an AX task. In Experiment 2, participants classified stimuli as category exemplars using an AXB task. In Experiment 3, participants imitated stimuli; the alignment of F0 peaks and valleys in their productions was measured. Finally, in Experiment 4, participants judged the relative prominence of initial and final syllables in stimuli to determine whether alignment differences generated a stress shift. The results support the distinctions between H* and H+L* and between L+H* and L*. Moreover, evidence consistent with an additional category not currently predicted by most AM theories was obtained, which is proposed here to be H*+H. The results have implications for understanding phonological contrasts, phonetic interpolation in English intonation, and the transcription of prosodic contrasts in corpus-based analysis.


D'Imperio M. On defining tonal targets from a perception perspective: Ohio State University; 2000.

Purcell E. Pitch peak location and the perception of Serbo-Croatian word tone. Journal of Phonetics. 1976;4:265- 70.

Bruce G. Swedish word accents in sentence perspective. Lund: Gleerups; 1977.

Kohler KJ. Categorical pitch perception. In: Viks U, editor. Proceedings of the 11th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences; 1987; Tallinn.

House D. Tonal perception in speech. Lund: Lund University Press; 1990.

D'Imperio M, House D. Perception of questions and statements in Neapolitan Italian. Proceedings of Eurospeech; 1997; Rhodes, Greece.

Prieto P, van Santen J, Hirschberg J. Tonal alignment patterns in Spanish. Journal of Phonetics. 1995;23:429-51.

Caspers J, van Heuven VJ. Effects of time pressure on the phonetic realization fo the dutch accent-lending pitch rise and fall. Phonetica. 1993;50:161-71.

Arvaniti A, Ladd DR, Mennen I. Stability of tonal alignment: The case of Greek prenuclear accents. Journal of Phonetics. 1998;26:3-25.

Ladd DR, Mennen I, Schepman A. Phonological conditioning of peak alignment in rising pitch accents in Dutch. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 2000;107(5):2685-96.

Ladd DR, Faulkner D, Faulkner H, Schepman A. Constant "segmental anchoring" of F0 movements under changes in speech rate. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 1999;106(3):1543-54.

Dilley LC, Ladd DR, Schepman A. Alignment of L and H in bitonal pitch accents: Testing two hypotheses. Journal of Phonetics. 2005;33(1):115-9.

Arvaniti A, Ladd DR, Mennen I. Effects of focus and "tonal crowding" in intonation: Evidence from Greek Polar questions. Speech Communication. 2006;48:667-96.

Grice M, Ladd DR, Arvaniti A. On the place of phrase accents in intonational phonology. Phonology. 2000;17:143-86.

Silverman K, Pierrehumbert J. The timing of prenuclear high accents in English. In: Kingston J, Beckman M, editors. Papers in Laboratory Phonology I: Between the Grammar and Physics of Speech. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1990. p. 71-106.

Xu Y. Effects of tone and focus on the formation and alignment of F0 contours. Journal of Phonetics. 1999;27:55-105.

Schepman A, Lickley R, Ladd DR. Effects of vowel length and "right context" on the alignment of Dutch nuclear accents. Journal of Phonetics. 2006;34:1-28.

Atterer M, Ladd DR. On the phonetics and phonology of "segmental anchoring" of F0: Evidence from German. Journal of Phonetics. 2004;32(2):177-97.

Arvaniti A, Ladd DR, Mennen I. Tonal association and tonal alignment: Evidence from Greek polar questions and contrastive statements. Language and Speech. 2006;49:421-50.

Pierrehumbert J. The phonology and phonetics of English intonation [Ph.D. dissertation]. Cambridge, MA: MIT; 1980.

Beckman M, Pierrehumbert J. Intonational structure in Japanese and English. Phonology Yearbook. 1986;3:255- 309.

Liberman M, Pierrehumbert J. Intonational invariance under changes in pitch range and length. In: Aronoff M, Oerhle R, editors. Language Sound Structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; 1984. p. 157-233.

Silverman K, Beckman M, Pierrehumbert J, Ostendorf M, Wightman CWS, Price P, et al. ToBI: A standard scheme for labeling prosody. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Spoken Language Processing 1992; Banff.

Beckman M, Ayers Elam G. Guidelines for ToBI labeling, version 3. Ohio State University; 1997.

Pike KL. The intonation of American English. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Publications; 1945.

Liberman M. The intonation system of English [Ph.D. dissertation]. Cambridge, MA: MIT; 1975.

't Hart J, Collier R, Cohen A. A perceptual study of intonation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1990.

Halliday MAK. Intonation and grammar in British English. Paris: Mouton; 1967.

Crystal D. Prosodic systems and intonation in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1969.

Xu Y. Consistency of tone-syllable alignment across different syllable structures and speaking rates. Phonetica. 1998;55:179-203.

Xu Y, Wang QE. Pitch targets and their realization: Evidence from Mandarin Chinese. Speech Communication. 2001;33:319-37.

Xu Y. Speech melody as articulatorily implemented communicative functions. Speech Communication. 2005;46:220-51.

Prieto P. Experimental methods and paradigms for prosodic analysis. In: Cohn AC, Fougeron C, Huffman MK, editors. The Oxford handbook of laboratory phonology. Oxford: OUP; 2011.

Hawkins S. Roles and representations of systematic fine phonetic detail in speech understanding. Journal of Phonetics. 2003;31:373-405.

Goldstein L, Fowler CA. Articulatory phonology: A phonology for public language use. In: Schiller NO, Meyer AS, editors. Phonetics and phonology in language comprehension and production: Differences and similarities: Mouton de Gruyter; 2003. p. 159-207.

Liberman AM, Whalen DH. On the relation of speech to language. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 2000;4(5):187- 96.

Miller JL. On the internal structure of phonetic categories: A progress report. Cognition. 1994;50:271-85.

Kuhl P. Human adults and human infants show a "perceptual magnet effect" for the prototypes of speech categories, monkeys do not. Perception & Psychophysics. 1991;50(2):93-107.

Xu Y. Fundamental frequency peak delay in Mandarin. Phonetica. 2001;58:26-52.

Ladd DR, Schepman A. "Sagging transitions" between high accent peaks in English: Experimental evidence. Journal of Phonetics. 2003;31:81-112.

Ladd DR. Intonational phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1996.

Goldsmith J. Autosegmental phonology [Ph.D. dissertation]. Cambridge, MA: MIT; 1976.

Grice M. Leading tones and downstep in English. Phonology. 1995;12:183-233.

Dilley LC. The phonetics and phonology of tonal systems [Ph.D. dissertation]. Cambridge, MA: MIT; 2005.

Pierrehumbert J, Beckman M. Japanese tone structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; 1988.

Pierrehumbert J, Steele SA. Categories of tonal alignment in English. Phonetica. 1989;46:181-96.

Redi LC. Categorical effects in production of pitch contours in English. Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences; 2003; Barcelona.

Knight R-A. Peaks and plateaux: The production and perception of intonational high targets in English: University of Cambridge; 2003.

Shattuck-Hufnagel S, Dilley LC, Veilleux N, Brugos A, Speer R. F0 peaks and valleys aligned with nonprominent syllables can influence perceived prominence in adjacent syllables. Proceedings of Speech Prosody; 2004; Nara, Japan.

Dainora A. An empirically based probabilistic model of intonation in American English: University of Chicago; 2001.

Dilley LC, Brown M. Effects of pitch range variation on F0 extrema in an imitation task. Journal of Phonetics. 2007;35:523-51.

Gussenhoven C. The phonology of tone and intonation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2004.

Ladd DR. Intonational Phonology. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2008.

Pierrehumbert J. Phonetic diversity, statistical learning, and acquisition of phonology. Language and Speech. 2003;46(2-3):115-54.

Dilley LC. Pitch range variation in English tonal contrasts: Continuous or categorical? Proceedings of the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences; 2007; Saarbruecken, Germany.

Rietveld ACM, Gussenhoven C. On the relation between pitch and excursion size prominence. Journal of Phonetics. 1985;13:299-308.

Gussenhoven C, Rietveld ACM. Fundamental frequency declination in Dutch: Testing three hypotheses. Journal of Phonetics. 1988;16:355-69.

Ladd DR, Verhoeven J, Jacobs K. Influence of adjacent pitch accents on each other's perceived prominence: Two contradictory effects. Journal of Phonetics. 1994;22:87-99.

Calhoun S. Information structure and the prosodic structure of English: A probabilistic relationship [Ph.D. dissertation]: University of Edinburgh; 2006.

Nash R, Mulac A. The intonation of verifiability. In: Waugh LR, van Schooneveld CH, editors. The Melody of Language. Baltimore: University Park Press; 1980. p. 219-42.

Gussenhoven C, Rietveld T. The behavior of H* and L* under variations in pitch range in Dutch rising contours. Language and Speech. 2000;43(2):183-203.

Liberman AM, Harris KS, Hoffman HS, Griffith BC. The discrimination of speech sounds within and across phoneme boundaries. Journal of Experimental Psychology. 1957;54(5):358-68.

Repp BH. Categorical perception: Issues, methods, findings. In: Lass NJ, editor. Speech and Language: Advances in Basic Research and Practice. 10. Orlando: Academic Press, Inc.; 1984. p. 243-335.

Massaro DW, Cohen MM. Categorical or continuous speech perception: A new test. Speech Communication. 1983;2(1):15-35.

Schouten MEH, van Hessen A. Modeling phoneme perception I: Categorical perception. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 1992;92:1841-55.

Remijsen, B., van Heuven VJ. Gradient and categorical pitch dimensions in Dutch: Diagnostic tests. Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences; 1999; San Francisco.

Ladd DR, Morton R. The perception of intonational emphasis: Continuous or categorical? Journal of Phonetics. 1997;25:313-42.

Post B. Tonal and phrasal structures in French intonation. The Hague: Holland Academic Graphics; 2000.

Cummins F, Doherty CP, Dilley LC. Phrase-final pitch discrimination in English. Proceedings of Speech Prosody; 2006; Dresden, Germany.

Niebuhr O, Kohler KJ. Perception and cognitive processing of tonal alignment in German. Proceedings of the International Symposium of Tonal Aspects of Languages: Emphasis on Tone Languages; 2004: Beijing, China, pp. 155-158.

Schneider K, Mobius B. Perceptual magnet effect in German boundary tones. Proceedings of Interspeech; 2005; Lisbon.

MacMillan NA, Creelman CD. Detection theory: A user's guide. New York: Cambridge University Press; 1991.

Boersma P, Weenink D. Praat: Doing phonetics by computer [Computer program]. 4.0.26 ed: Software and manual available online at; 2002.

Moulines E, Charpentier F. Pitch-synchronous waveform processing techniques for text-to-speech synthesis using diphones. Speech Communication. 1990;9(5-6):453-67.

Niebuhr O. Perceptual study of timing variables in F0 peaks. Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences; 2003: Barcelona, pp. 1225-1228.

't Hart J. F0 stylization in speech: Straight lines versus parabolas. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 1991;90(6):3368-71.

Studdert-Kennedy M, Hadding-Koch K. Auditory and linguistic processes in the perception of intonation contours. Language and Speech. 1973;16:293-313.

Gósy M, Terken J. Question marking in Hungarian: Timing and height of pitch peaks. Journal of Phonetics. 1994;22:269-81.

Demany L, McAnally KI. The perception of frequency peaks and troughs in wide frequency modulations. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 1994;96:706-15.

d'Alessandro C, Mertens P. Automatic pitch contour stylization using a model of tonal perception. Computer Speech and Language. 1995;9(3):257-88.

Rossi M. The perception of non-repetitive intensity glides on vowels. Journal of Phonetics. 1978;6:9-18.

Baddeley A. Working memory: Looking back and looking forward. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2003;4:829- 39.

Foxton J, Dean J, Gee R, Peretz I, Griffiths TD. Characterization of deficits in pitch perception underlying 'tone deafness'. Brain. 2004;127:801-10.

Semal C, Demany L. Individual differences in the sensitivity to pitch direction. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 2006;120(6):3907-15.

Hyde KL, Peretz I. Brains that are out of tune but in time. Psychological Science. 2004;15(5):356-60.

Hallé PA, Chang Y-C, Best CT. Identification and discrimination of Mandarin Chinese tones by Mandarin Chinese vs. French listeners. Journal of Phonetics. 2004:forthcoming.

Redi LC, Shattuck-Hufnagel S. Variation in the realization of glottalization in normal speakers. Journal of Phonetics. 2001;29(4):407-29.

Kochanski G, Grabe E, Coleman J, Rosner B. Loudness predicts prominence: Fundamental frequency lends little. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 2005;118:1038-54.

Morton J, Jassem W. Acoustic correlates of stress. Language & Speech. 1965;8:148-58.

Fry DB. Duration and intensity as physical correlates of linguistic stress. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 1955;27:765-8.

Fry DB. Experiments in the perception of stress. Language & Speech. 1958;1:126-52.

Heldner M. On the reliability of overall intensity and spectral emphasis as acoustic correlates of focal accents in Swedish. Journal of Phonetics. 2003;31:39-62.

Earle MA. An acoustic phonetic study of Northern Vietnamese tones. Santa Barbara, CA: Speech Communications Research Laboratory, Inc., 1975 SCRL Monograph Number 11.

Fry DB. Prosodic phenomena. In: Malmberg B, editor. Manual of Phonetics. Amsterdam: North-Holland; 1968. p. 365-410.

Bolinger D. A theory of pitch accent in English. Word. 1958;14:109-49.

Morton J, Marcus S, Frankish C. Perceptual centers (P-centers). Psychological Review. 1976;83(5):405-8.

Arvaniti A, Ladd DR, Mennen I. What is a starred tone? Evidence from Greek. Papers in Laboratory Phonology V: Cambridge University Press; 2000. p. 119-30.

Shattuck-Hufnagel S. Pitch accent patterns in adjacent-stress vs. alternating-stress words in American English. International Congress of Phonetic Sciences; 1995; Stockholm.

Dilley LC, Brown M. The RaP (Rhythm and Pitch) Labeling System, Version 1.0. 2005.

Breen M, Dilley LC, Kraemer J, Gibson E. Inter-transcriber reliability for two systems of prosodic annotation: ToBI (Tones and Break Indices) and RaP (Rhythm and Pitch). Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory. 2012;8(2):277-312.

Arvaniti A, Garding G. Dialectical variation in the rising accents of American English. In: Cole J, Hualde JH, editors. Papers in Laboratory Phonology 9. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter; 2007. p. 547-76.

Ladd DR, Schepman A, White L, Quarmby LM, Stackhouse R. Structural and dialectal effects on pitch peak alignment in two varieties of British English. Journal of Phonetics. 2009;37(2):145-61.

Ladd DR. Tones and turning points: Bruce, Pierrehumbert, and the elements of intonational phonology. In: Horne M, editor. Prosody: Theory and Experiment - Studies presented to Gosta Bruce. Dordrecht: Kluwer; 2000. p. 37-50.

Wong PCM, Perrachione TK, Parrish TB. Neural characteristics of successful and less successful speech and word learning in adults. Human Brain Mapping. 2007;28:995-1006.

Chandrasekaran B, Sampath PD, Wong PCM. Individual variability in cue-weighting and lexical tone learning. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 2010;128(1):456-65.

Klein D, Zatorre RJ, Milner B, Zhao V. A cross-linguistic PET study of tone perception in Mandarin Chinese and English speakers. NeuroImage. 2001;13:646-53.

Gandour J, Wong D, Hsieh L, Weinzapfel B, Van Lancker D, Hutchins GD. A crosslinguistic PET study of tone perception. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 2000;12:207-22.

Gandour J, Wong D, Hutchins G. Pitch processing in the human brain is influenced by language experience. NeuroReport. 1998;9:2115-9.

Wong PCM, Skoe E, Russo NM, Dees T, Kraus N. Musical experience shapes human brainstem encoding of linguistic pitch patterns. Nature Neuroscience. 2007;10(4):420-2.

Patel AD, Wong M, Foxton J, Lochy A, Peretz I. Speech intonation perception deficits in musical tone deafness (congenital amusia). Music Perception. 2008;25(4):357-68.

Peretz I, Hyde KL. What is specific to music processing? Insights from congenital amusia. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 2003;7:362-7.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2013 L. C. Dilley, C. C. Heffne


Download data is not yet available.