Main prominence is conventionally described as being assigned to the final syllable of phrases in French, but previous quantitative and qualitative work has shown that this is not always the case. Using corpus data from Laurentian French (Saguenay, Quebec), we test the hypothesis that prominence is preferentially assigned to heavy syllables. Our results demonstrate that this is indeed the case, with both codas and heavy vowels attracting prominence away from final syllables, particularly when the final syllable is open. We infer two distinct types of prominence: lexical and phrasal. Lexical prominence, which is marked using duration and amplitude, variably attracts phrasal prominence, which is marked using pitch. We interpret these findings as indicating that the location of phrasal prominence is sensitive to syllable weight and that this prominence is best formally expressed as a pitch accent due to its attraction to lexically prominent syllables.
Jeff Lamontagne (PhD 2020) and Heather Goad‘s article “Weight sensitivity and prominence in Laurentian French” will appear in the journal Glossa. The full abstract appears below: