Università degli Studi della Tuscia
December 12-14, 2013
Viterbo - Italy
Gruppo di Studio sulla Comunicazione Parlata


Prominence is the name of a way to analyse the linguistic phenomena: the idea that a well-formedness condition of linguistic constituents relies on the existence of a dependency between a hierarchically higher-level obligatory element (sometimes referred to as the “head”) and one or more subordinate and optional elements (the domain of the head). This condition operates in many components or structures of the grammar: syntax, morphology, pragmatics, metric, and intonation. In short, the prominence is a matter of interface.

To this effect we propose a meeting on all these different fields of study. The goal is to test this epistemological concern and to compare approaches and definitions.

The concept of prominence holds a plurality of meanings, but they may relate to diverse linguistic approaches and are not always compatible. According to some scholars, the prominence is a fact of perception, which is not well specified and concerns the linguistic marking of some pragmatically relevant categories (focus, topic, given/new, etc). Others believe it is the name of a metric phenomenon (calculated as the sum of “strong” constituents on the branches of a metric tree: strong syllable, strong feet, strong phonological word, etc). For other scholars the prominence is a phonological feature which is associated with some points of the intonation contour (where the Pitch Accents are located). According to others, it is a pretty metalinguistic fact, due to the governance relationship of a constituent on its domain (the head of a phrase, of a compound, or of a morphological construct in general).

This plurality of meanings not always triggers unambiguous uses of the term. Sometimes, the individual researcher is not aware of which particular definition of prominence he is implicitly adopting. This makes it difficult to dialogue with other scholars, who belong to other sectors of the vast landscape of language studies.

During the Viterbo Conference a Round Table will be organized in order to put scholars from different backgrounds (syntax, morphology, prosody, phonetics, phonology, pragmatics) side by side. The goal is to highlight similarities and differences in the use and in the implicit definition of prominence. Each of the participants in the Panel would be entrusted with a specific field (syntax, morphology, intonation, speech technologies, metrics and pragmatics).

So far the following Italian and foreigner (the titles are tentative) colleagues have accepted to join the project:

Giuliano Bocci and Cinzia Avesani (Which psychological plausibility for a theory of phonological prosodic prominence?); Emanuela Cresti (The semantic prominence within information units in the pragmatics of spoken language); Amedeo De Dominicis (The model of multiple prominences); Francesca Masini and Sergio Scalise (The notion of head in morphology); Raffaele Simone (A simple theory of focus); Fabio Tamburini (Automatic identification of the prominence by means of acoustic analyses).

Keynote speakers

Carlos Gussenhoven (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Prominence and phonology.

Anders Eriksson (University of Gothenburg)

Perceptual syllable prominence as a function of the language of the samples and the language of the listener.

Melanie Bell (Anglia Ruskin University)

Prominence in word formation: the English compound noun

Iørn Korzen (Copenhagen Business School)

Text pragmatic prominence and topicality. Four hierarchies regarding the topic suitability of nominal constituents

Ralf Vogel (University of Bielefeld)

Prominence patterns in syntax - motivated by its interfaces?

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