Autosegmental analysis of intonation

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Autosegmental analysis of intonation is a term that is used for the descriptive model of intonation.


Gussenhoven's autosegmental description of intonation was originally developed for British English (1984, 1985). However, his description, which recognises a phonetic level and a morphological level, can also be applied to Dutch intonation (Gussenhoven 1988). Gussenhoven's analysis is closely related to the phonological descriptions of intonation by, amongst others, Pierrehumbert (1980) and Ladd (1983).

In Gussenhoven's analysis, the intonation of British English and Dutch can be described in terms of the same phonological units. Moreover, the morpheme inventories for the two languages are the same: there are three morphemes (or 'tones'): H*L, H*LH, and L*H. There is a one-to-one correspondence between accents on the tonal tier and accents on the segmental tier (both indicated by *). All other contours of Dutch are derived from these tones by phonological operations, such as downstep.

ToBI and ToDI are frameworks to transcribe intonation, both based on the autosegmental description.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Pierrehumbert, J. 1980. The phonology and phonetics of English intonation. MIT Dissertation.
  • Ladd, D.R. 1983. Phonological features of intonational peaks. Language 59, 721-759.
  • Gussenhoven, C. 1984. On the grammar and semantics of sentence accents. Dordrecht, Foris.
  • Gussenhoven, C. 1985. Intonation: a whole autosegmental language. In van der Hulst, H. & Smith, N. (eds.): Advances in nonlinear phonology, 117-131. Dordrecht: Foris.
  • Gussenhoven, C. 1988. Adequacy in intonation analysis: The case of Dutch. In van der Hulst, H. & Smith, N. (eds.): Autosegmental studies on pitch accent, 95-121. Cinnaminson: Foris, Dordrecht.