Thesis supervisors: Professor Karl Pajusalu and Professor emerita Tiit-Rein Viitso
Oponent: Professor Dace Markus (Riga Teacher Training and Education Management Academy)
The Livonian language shares similar prosodic features with Finno-Ugric languages but also Baltic and Scandinavian languages. Gradation in Livonian is a regular alternation of the weak-grade and strong-grade stressed syllables and unstressed syllables. A significant phenomenon in Livonian word prosody is the opposition of the plain tone and broken tone or stød. The current thesis focuses on three main research aspects: the role of quantity and fundamental frequency in the Livonian prosodic system, the temporal patterns in Livonian words of more than two syllables, and acoustic features of Livonian broken tone or stød. The acoustic analysis showed the duration of the first stressed syllable might not differ in weak- and strong-grade words, but the difference becomes evident in the second unstressed syllable duration. Words without stød (i.e. with the plain tone) can have a late pitch peak in weak-grade words, while in strong-grade words the F0 peak can vary in the first stressed syllable. The structures of primary-stressed and secondary-stressed feet are in principle alike. The analysis revealed that the most stable and characteristic feature of words with stød is an early location of the F0 turning point and the irregular shape of the intensity contour. The F0 values in S2 are considerably smaller in words with stød. Characteristic laryngealization is realized more often in read speech than in spontaneous speech. In spontaneous speech, this feature tends to weaken or disappear. The results of this thesis suggest that not only the syllable carrying stød but also the following syllable might cue the difference between words with and without stød.