A comparative study of downstep

The project experimentally investigates universal and language-specific properties of the phenomenon of downstep. This phenomenon is central in the understanding of the actual spoken melody of many tone languages as well as of intonation languages. It is located at the interface of the phonological representation (tones, stress, focus, prosodic constituents) and the phonetic realization (actual height of the fundamental frequency; perceived as height of the 'sentence melody'). The project experimentally compares German intonation to intonation in tone languages. It seeks insights into the nature of downstep in general and into its universal and language-specific properties.


  • Petrone, Caterina & Mariapaola D’Imperio. 2009. Is tonal alignment interpretation independent of methodology?. Proceedings of Interspeech 2009. 2459-2462.
  • Petrone, Caterina & Mariapaola D’Imperio. 2008. Tonal structure and constituency in Neapolitan Italian: Evidence for the Accentual Phrase in statements and questions. Proceedings of the Speech Prosody 2008. 301-304.