Volume 50, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1876-9071
  • E-ISSN: 2214-5729


Recent research on intonational variation in West Germanic languages suggests that tonal variation among dialects of a single language may be larger than among national standard varieties like British English, Dutch, and German. However, most parts of the West Germanic language area are still uncharted territory as far as intonation is concerned. In particular, we know virtually nothing about the intonation of northern Dutch dialects and of Low German. This paper deals with intonational variation in the Dutch province of Groningen and the German province of East Frisia, covering Dutch Low Saxon, German Low Saxon, and Northern High German. We report results from two studies on intonational variation. First, a reading task was carried out to determine the tonal inventories and to detect variation in the use of nuclear tunes. Second, speakers were presented with sentences varying by focus condition to determine variation in the phonetic realisation of the same tunes. The results of the first study suggest that speakers of Dutch Low Saxon, German Low Saxon, and High German in the border area make use of the same inventory of nuclear tunes, but differ in the use of single tunes in various utterance types. The second study reveals differences in segmental lengthening, pitch timing, and pitch scaling. We conclude, first, that intonational variation in the northern Dutch-German border area is more likely to be found in the use of tunes and their phonetic realisation than in tonal grammar, and second, that intonational variation between Dutch and German Low Saxon is larger than that between German Low Saxon and local High German.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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