B-ToBI: focus tones

In addition to the basic tones of Bengali intonation, there are tones that mark focus. These are called focus tones or f-marked tones due to the "f" diacritic in their transcription. The use of "f" is based on the word "focus", but the decision to transcribe a tone as f-marked or not must be based on phonetic/phonological evidence, not from pragmatic context. In other words, a word has to actually "sound focused" to be transcribed with an f-marked tone.

Focus

Focus is realized through the use of the abstract focus high tone (fH). This abstract tone surfaces in one of at least four separate patterns, each of which shows some phonetic variation. The four patterns roughly correspond to four different subtypes of focus, although there is certainly a good deal of variability across the uses of each pattern. This section will be updated with examples shortly; for now, I have included a brief description of each pattern.

Pattern 1: f-marked low-rising pitch accent (L*+fH)

One of the most common strategies for marking focus is using the f-marked low-rising pitch accent (L*+fH).

Abstractly, this can be analyzed as the adjunction of the focus high tone (fH) to the default low pitch accent (L*).

Phonetically, it is realized as low pitch on the accented syllable, rising to a peak that usually occurs at the end of the following syllable (i.e. at the boundary between the 2nd and 3rd syllables). The peak violates Ha downtrend (i.e. it is higher than the preceding AP's H tone).

Example to be uploaded shortly.

All material following this focused word will exhibit tonal compression or deletion, i.e. either there will be very subtle AP tones or no audible AP tones at all on following words. This may suggest that the post-focal material is phrased together with the focused material into one long AP.

Example to be uploaded shortly.

This peak may come well before or after the word boundary, which is a clear indicator that this peak is not a boundary tone, rather it is associated with the pitch accent.

Example to be uploaded shortly.

The common uses of this pattern include corrections to preceding statements (corrective focus) and answers to wh-questions (wh-answer focus, a.k.a. information focus).

Example to be uploaded shortly.

Example to be uploaded shortly.

Pattern 2: f-marked high AP boundary tone (fHa)

Another common strategy for marking focus is using the f-marked high AP boundary tone (fHa).

Abstractly, this can be analyzed as the fusion of the focus high tone (fH) with the default high AP boundary tone (Ha). It is always preceded by the default low pitch accent (L*).

Phonetically, it is identical to the default Ha, except that the peak violates Ha downtrend (i.e. it is higher than the preceding AP's H tone).

Example to be uploaded shortly.

As with Pattern 1, all material following this focused word will exhibit tonal compression or deletion, i.e. either there will be very subtle AP tones or no audible AP tones at all on following words. However, the one exception is the immediately post-focal item, which can bear a low pitch accent (L*). This may suggest that the post-focal material is phrased as one long AP, but separate from the focused AP.

Example to be uploaded shortly.

The common uses of this pattern include words that bear the focus enclitics -i/-I (roughly 'only') or -o/-O (roughly 'also').

Example to be uploaded shortly.

Example to be uploaded shortly.

Pattern 3: f-marked high pitch accent (fH*)

One of the less common strategies for marking focus is the f-marked high pitch accent (fH*).

Abstractly, this can be analyzed as the fusion of the focus high tone (fH) with the non-default high pitch accent (H*).

Phonetically, it is identical to the non-focused H*, except that the peak violates Ha downtrend (i.e. it is higher than the preceding AP's H tone).

Example to be uploaded shortly.

As with Pattern 1, all material following this focused word will exhibit tonal compression or deletion, i.e. either there will be very subtle AP tones or no audible AP tones at all on following words. This may suggest that the post-focal material is phrased together with the focused material into one long AP.

Example to be uploaded shortly.

Given the low frequency of this pattern, it is hard to draw conclusions as to its typical use(s). One use that has been documented is in cases of pragmatically unexpected information ("surprise focus")

Example to be uploaded shortly.

Pattern 4: f-marked high-rising pitch accent (H*+fH)

The last pattern for marking focus, which was not previously documented in Khan (2008) or Khan (2014), is the f-marked high-rising pitch accent (H*+fH).

Abstractly, this can be analyzed as the adjunction of the focus high tone (fH) to the non-default high pitch accent (H*).

Phonetically, it involves a high target on the accented syllable followed by continuously rising pitch through the end of the second syllable. This peak violates Ha downtrend (i.e. it is higher than the H* target or the preceding AP's H tone).

Example to be uploaded shortly.

As with Patterns 1 and 3, all material following this focused word will exhibit tonal compression or deletion, i.e. either there will be very subtle AP tones or no audible AP tones at all on following words. This may suggest that the post-focal material is phrased together with the focused material into one long AP.

Example to be uploaded shortly.

Given the low frequency of this pattern, it is hard to draw conclusions as to its typical use(s). One use that has been documented is in wh-question words ("wh-question focus"). Rashad Ullah's dissertation explores the use of this pattern in other phenomena as well, e.g. negative polarity items (NPIs).

Example to be uploaded shortly.