Pitch, Stress & Intensity

Many features that we usually discuss under the headings of suprasegmental phonetics/phonology or prosody are features that in some way relate to fundamental frequency (pitch) and intensity of the sound signal. Here, it is especially important to bear in mind that we always have to interpret intensity as relative to a given ‘norm’, often the mean overall intensity in a file.

Stress, although it is often erroneously assumed to be a direct correlate of intensity, is actually a complex feature that usually involves taking into account pitch excursions, intensity and even segment length. Before we actually look at how we may be able to analyse these features using WaveSurfer, we’ll first take a look at the relevant pages of my general phonetics course again.

Now that we know how and what to interpret, we need to see how we can create the necessary display in WaveSurfer. In order to achieve this, it is probably best to start out from our modified ‘Speech Analysis’ configuration, which already contains most of the necessary panes, and add a ‘Power Plot’ pane, preferably immediately above the spectrogram pane. You can then save this configuration under a new name like ‘stress_and_intonation’. Next, download my example file for suprasegmental features and analyse it to gain some experience in identifying these features.