Skip to main content

How Truncating Are ‘Truncating Languages'? Evidence from Russian and German

Rathcke, Tamara V. (2017) How Truncating Are ‘Truncating Languages'? Evidence from Russian and German. Phonetica, 73 (3-4). pp. 194-228. ISSN 0031-8388. E-ISSN 1423-0321. (doi:10.1159/000444190) (KAR id:59362)

PDF Author's Accepted Manuscript
Language: English
Download (1MB) Preview
Official URL


Russian and German have been previously been described as ‘truncating‘, or cutting off target frequencies of the phrase-final pitch trajectories when the time available for voicing is compromised. However, supporting evidence is rare and limited to only a few pitch categories. This paper reports a production study conducted to document pitch adjustments to linguistic materials, in which the amount of voicing available for the realization of a pitch pattern varies from relatively long to extremely short. Productions of nuclear H+L*, H* and L*+H pitch accents followed by a low boundary tone were investigated in the two languages. The results of the study show that speakers of both ‘truncating languages’‘ do not exclusively utilize truncation exclusively when accommodating to different segmental environments. On the contrary, they employ several strategies – among them is truncation but also compression and temporal re-alignment –to produce the target pitch categories under increasing time pressure. Given that speakers can systematically apply all three adjustment strategies to produce some pitch patterns (H* L% in German and Russian) while not using truncation in others (H+L* L% particularly in Russian), we question the effectiveness of the typological classification of these two languages as ‘truncating’. Moreover, the phonetic detail of truncation varies considerably, both across and within the two languages, indicating that truncation cannot be easily be modeled as a unified phenomenon. The results further suggest that the phrase-final pitch adjustments are crucially sensitive to the phonological composition of the tonal string and the status of a particular tonal event (associated vs. boundary tone), and do not apply to falling vs. rising pitch contours across the board, as previously put forward for German. Implications for the intonational phonology and prosodic typology are addressed in the discussion.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1159/000444190
Uncontrolled keywords: truncating language, Russian intonation, German intonation, pitch-segment interactions
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > English Language and Linguistics
Depositing User: Tamara Rathcke
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2016 15:42 UTC
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2020 09:31 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Rathcke, Tamara V.:
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year