Lars O. Dyrud

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Joan Baart


The Hindi-Urdu stress system has been a problematic topic for over a century. Hayes (1995) says, '... this topic has its empirically dismaying aspects: the published descriptions almost all disagree with one another, and seldom mention the disagreement.'

The literature today divides languages between 'stress accent' languages and 'non-stress accent' languages. According to Beckman (1986), 'stress accent' languages are those that use phonetic attributes other than pitch to indicate a prominent syllable, while 'non-stress accent' languages are those that use only pitch to mark a prominent syllable.

In the past, several quantitative studies of phonetic correlates of stress in Hindi-Urdu have been carried out. The question I seek to answer in this study is whether there is evidence for stress accent (in Beckman's terminology) in Hindi-Urdu; that is, is word stress in Hindi-Urdu reflected in one or more acoustic properties, independent from the pitch fluctuations that are due to intonation? Most previous studies have not directly addressed this question.

I compared the acoustic properties of prominent and non-prominent syllables, controlling for the effects of intonation (especially the presence vs. absence of prominence-lending pitch movements), by recording words in both [+focus] and [-focus] contexts. Results showed a significant effect of stress on pitch as well as on duration. However, I also found that focus interacts with stress: for two minimal pairs in my data, stress showed a significant effect on both pitch and duration in the [+focus] condition, but on neither pitch nor duration in the [-focus] condition.

This result suggests that duration does not function independently from pitch as an acoustic correlate of stress in Hindi-Urdu, and that the language is more accurately classified as having non-stress accent instead of stress accent.

In a pilot perception experiment, listeners did not perform better than chance in identifying members of minimal stress pairs spoken in a [-focus] context, while they did perform better than chance for words spoken in a [+focus] context. This result corroborates the findings of the production experiments, viz. that for the words studied, acoustic correlates of stress disappear in the [-focus] context.

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