Functions of prosodyProminence
Within an utterance, a given word or phrase is usually highlighted because it conveys the most important piece of information. Highlighting is the placement of prominence within an utterance. In a stress language like Portuguese, intonation has an highlighting function, and several strategies can be used.
Rightmost prominence is the most common and default type of prominence if no particular word or phrase is to be signaled as the relevant piece of information. In this case, the position of the nuclear pitch accent is final in the intonational phrase as in (1). If the location of the nuclear pitch accent is changed, the meaning if the utterance is also changed since pitch accent placement signals the important piece of information that is being conveyed, as in (2) and (3). Together with changes in the position of the nuclear accent, pre-nuclear and post-nuclear deaccenting or pitch range compression may add to the expression of the prominent element (see (2,3)). In some varieties of Portuguese, the type of pitch accent used is crucial for highlighting, that is for conveying the meaning that ‘this is what I’m talking about (and not something else)’, as shown in (4).
For the highlighting function of intonation in Portuguese, see, among others: Frota 2000; Frota 2012; Frota 2014; Frota & Moraes 2016.