Carrier phrases

Is there a general strategy for using carrier phrases when there are huge pauses between words in a language? I’m just curious, because I haven’t been able to find anything about this in phonetics or phonology sources. So I’m asking here in case one of the two people who ever see this blog can point me in the right direction.

It’s generally accepted that to control for various effects (especially focus), you should elicit lexical items within carrier phrases. However, from what I can tell, this advice usually assumes that there are relatively short pauses between words, as in English (and other European languages I’m familiar with). What if the language tends to have much longer pauses between words? Are there any negative effects when using carrier phrases?

I ask because my Iñupiaq consultants typically produced sentences with 5-7 seconds between words, especially in longer narratives. This got me a gentle scolding a few times when I thought they were finished speaking and they really weren’t!

On the one hand, I think as long as all the words being compared are in the same carrier phrase, it doesn’t matter how long the pauses are. On the other hand, I want to make sure that I’m not making assumptions that will have bad consequences for data analyses.


2 thoughts on “Carrier phrases

  1. Claire November 20, 2006 / 10:18 pm

    hmm, dunno. It would depend on what you’re measuring. If you were looking at voicing assimilation across word boundaries it’d be a problem, but I’ve always thought the main purpose of a carrier phrase is to keep the intonation regular, and to avoid things like citation tone or utterance initial/final prominence. As long as your consultants maintain that, it shouldn’t matter if you’re measuring what I remember you’re measuring.

  2. tulugaq November 21, 2006 / 10:55 am

    Intonation is what I want to control for, as you said. What’s weird is that in some of the sentences, I think the second or third word – most of the sentences have three or four words – ends up with a more list-type intonation. Like she remembers that she’s going a task halfway through. Or, it could be transcription-induced hallucination.

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