Prosodic phrasing, pitch range, and word order variation in Murrinhpatha

Janet Fletcher, Evan Kidd, Hywel Stoakes, Rachel Nordlinger

Friday, December 16th, 2022, 3.15pm – 3.45pm


Like many Indigenous Australian languages, Murrinhpatha has flexible word order with no apparent configurational syntax. We analyzed an experimental corpus of Murrinhpatha utterances for associations between different thematic role orders, intonational phrasing patterns and pitch downtrends. We found that initial constituents (Agents or Patients) tend to carry the highest pitch targets (HiF0), followed by patterns of downstep and declination. Sentence-final verbs always have lower Hif0 values than either initial or medial Agents or Patients. Thematic role order does not influence intonational patterns, with the results suggesting that Murrinhpatha has positional prosody, although final nominals can disrupt global pitch downtrends regardless of thematic role.