Sentence intonation in Russian dialects with word-by-word melodic contour

2022. №1, 7-39

Sergey V. Knyazev
Vinogradov Russian Language Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia;


The present paper discusses the prosodic system found in the spontaneous dialogue speech corpus of an archaic Northern Russian dialect (the village of Vadyuga, upper reaches of Pinega river, Arkhangelsk Oblast), in which, supposedly, each word bears a pitch accent. A total of 6749 utterances from six speakers were analyzed. The results show that the following tonal parameters are used in this dialect as well as in Standard Modern Russian to convey different communicative meanings: the direction of pitch movement, the interval of pitch accent, the tonal level on which the pitch accent is realized, the timing of pitch accent, the type of phrase accent and the (fi nal) boundary tone. The dialect has fi ve pitch accents, L*+H, L+H*, H*+L, L* and H*, by far the most frequently used of them being L*+H, which is the predominant choice for prenuclear accents. Out of these five pitch accents, only H* is absent in Standard Modern Russian; however, the phonetic realization of pitch accents is dramatically diff erent in the dialect and in the standard language. Another distinction between the two idioms is found in association of prosodic means to communicative meanings; in particular, incompleteness is marked in Vadyuga with the high (downstepped) boundary tone, in contrast with the low tone typical for Standard Russian. The most prominent distinctions between the two idioms are the type of the basic prosodic unit (accentual phrase in the dialect vs. intonational phrase in the standard language), higher frequency of rising tones in Vadyuga, and greater utilization of the postnuclear part of utterance in the dialect. Generally, in terms of phrase prosody, the Pinega dialect (despite its ‘word-by-word melodic contour’) is much more similar to Standard Modern Russian than to the languages with lexical pitch accent, being most closely analogous to Modern Greek in this respect.

For citation:

Knyazev S. V. Sentence intonation in Russian dialects with word-by-word melodic contour. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2022, 1: 7–39.