Institute of English Linguistics (IfLA)

Pre-boundary lengthening in a cross-linguistic perspective

Investigations of the duration patterns induced by prosodic boundaries

General information

Project term

February 2019 – January 2022


German Research Foundation (DFG)


Principal investigator
Postdoc researcher
Student assistant


One of the major correlates of prosodic phrasing is the lengthening of material immediately preceding the phrase boundary. This effect, referred to as ‘pre-boundary lengthening’ (PBL), has been attested as a stable correlate of boundary production and a reliable cue for boundary perception. The presence of PBL in various languages suggests that it might be a universal tendency; yet, it has also been shown that it is implemented in language-specific ways and must be learnt by speakers. The project addresses open questions concerning the stretch of speech, or domain, that undergoes lengthening, the temporal dynamics within this domain, and the cross-linguistic differences of these aspects. The investigation involves a series of production studies on the domain and dynamics of PBL in German, French, and Tswana. The objective is to gain insights into the universal and language-specific aspects of PBL, testing for a connection between the initiation of PBL and properties of the prosodic system of a language.

Schubö, Fabian, Ian Bekker, Rigardt Pretorius, Valencia Wagner and Sabine Zerbian. Accepted. An exploration into Penultimate and Final Lengthening in Tswana (Southern Bantu). Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus.

Schubö, Fabian and Sabine Zerbian. 2020. Phonetic content and phonological structure affect pre-boundary lengthening in German. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 111-115.

Zerbian, Sabine, Ian Bekker, Rigardt Pretorius, Fabian Schubö & Valencia Wagner. Lengthening at boundaries in Tswana. Talk (online) at The 8th International Conference on Bantu Languages (Bantu 8), University of Essex, UK 2-4 June 2021.

Schubö, Fabian & Sabine Zerbian. Phonetic content and prosodic structure affect pre-boundary lengthening in German. Talk (online) at the 17th Conference on Laboratory Phonology (LabPhon17), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, 6-8 July 2020.

Schubö, Fabian & Sabine Zerbian. Phonetic content and phonological structure affect pre-boundary lengthening in German. Video presentation at the 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody, University of Tokyo, Japan, 25-28 May 2020.

Zerbian, Sabine & Fabian Schubö. The domain of pre-boundary lengthening in German. Poster at the 6th NINJAL International Conference on Phonetics and Phonology, National Institute of Japanese Language and Linguistics, Tokyo, Japan, 13-15 December 2019.

Schubö, Fabian & Sabine Zerbian. The domain of pre-boundary lengthening in German. Talk at the 15th Phonetik und Phonologie Tagung, University of Düsseldorf, Germany, 26-27 September 2019.

Schubö, Fabian & Sabine Zerbian. Pre-boundary lengthening in a cross-linguistic perspective. Colloquium talk at the University of Potsdam, Linguistics Department, 9 July 2019.

We organized a workshop at the 43rd annual meeting of the German Linguistic Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft, DGfS), entitled "Prosodic boundary phenomena". The intention of the workshop was to bring together interdisciplinary researchers working on the impact of prosody on language comprehension and production, such as cross-linguistic variation in prosodic boundary implementation, inter- and intraindividual differences including the ontogenetic development of prosodic competences, and researchers who are interested in the prosody-syntax interface from a modeling perspective or other phenomena related to prosodic boundaries. The workshop was held online, 24-25 February 2021.



Wednesday, 24 February 2021


Isabelle Franz, Christine Knoop, Gerrit Kentner, Sascha Rothbart, Vanessa Kegel, Julia Vasilieva, Sanja Methner, Winfried Menninghaus


Prosodic phrasing and syllable prominence in spoken prose – prediction from text and validation


Ludger Paschen, Susanne Fuchs, Frank Seifart


Final and pre-final lengthening in 13 languages


Ricardo Napoleão de Souza

Phonetic cues to IP-initial boundaries: Acoustic data from English, Spanish, and Portuguese



Bistra Andreeva, Bernd Möbius, Omnia Ibrahim, Ivan Yuen

The effect of predictability on the duration of phrase-final syllables



Gerrit Kentner, Isabelle Franz, Christine Knoop, Winfried Menninghaus

Pause duration and other prosodic boundary cues are not monotonically correlated


Laurence White

Temporal prediction in speech segmentation is modulated by foregoing utterance length



Xin Xie, Andres Buxó-Lugo, Chigusa Kurumada


An ideal-observer approach to structured talker variability in prosodic productions



Thursday, 25 February 2021


Naomi Peck, Kirsten Culhane, Maria Vollmer


Comparing cues: a mixed methods study of intonation unit boundaries in three typologically diverse languages



Sandrien van Ommen, Natalie Boll-Avetisyan, Barbara Höhle, Thierry Nazzi


Prosodic boundaries in phrase processing, a click-detection study


Nele Ots, Piia Taremaa


Effects of prosody and collocation frequency on language chunking



2 June 2021 Talk at Bantu 8, University of Essex
1 April 2021 Paper on boundary-related lengthening in Tswana accepted for publication in Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus
21 May 2021 Talk by Tatiana Kachkovskaia (St. Petersburg State University) on pre-boundary lengthening in Russian at the University of Stuttgart, Institute of Linguistics, Research Colloquium Phonology
24-25 February 2021 Workshop on 'Prosodic boundary phenomena' (AG10) organized at the 43rd Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS), University of Freiburg
21 December 2020 Presentation in the lecture series of the Institute of Linguistics
11 November 2020 MA thesis on pre-boundary lengthening in Czech submitted by Nadja Spina at the Institute of Linguistics
6 July 2020 Talk at LabPhon17, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
25 May 2020 Video presentation at the 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody, University of Tokyo
13 December 2019 Poster presentation at the 6th NINJAL International Conference on Phonetics and Phonology, Tokyo
27 September 2019 Talk at the 15th Phonetik und Phonologie Tagung, University of Düsseldorf
6 September 2019 Lunch talk at the North West University, School of Languages, Potchefstroom, South Africa
5-7 September 2019 Research visit at the North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
9 July 2019 Colloquium talk at the University of Potsdam, Linguistics Department, Neurolinguistics Colloquium
18 April 2019 Discussion of methods with the Expsy group, University of Stuttgart, Institute of Linguistics
8 February 2019 Project presentation at the University of Stuttgart, Institute of Linguistics, Research Colloquium Phonology



This picture showsSabine Zerbian
Prof. Dr.

Sabine Zerbian

Professor Phonology


Fabian Schubö

Research Associate

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