The Role of Syntactic Flexibility and Prosody in Marking Given / New Distinctions in Finnish

Anja Arnhold, Caroline Féry


One of the most fascinating aspects of Finnish grammar is the number of different information structure marking devices speakers have at their disposal, using syntax, prosody and morphology. The present article empirically investigates the interplay of syntax and prosody by analysing semi-spontaneous speech with variable word order and comparing it to scripted speech. The main object of attention lies in a detailed analysis of the phonetic correlates of new and focused words obtained in an experiment eliciting localisation expressions. While speakers of the scripted data used standard SVO word order, participants in our study were free to choose the most suitable word order. Speakers made extensive use of syntactic marking of information structure when this option was available, while prosodic marking was more pervasive when syntactic variability was excluded. Based on this interplay, we suggest a link between discourse congurationality and prosodic phrasing, arguing that both conspire for an optimal marking of information structure.

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