German has three main ways of signalling focalisation and related aspects of functional sentence perspective: with focus particles, with word order, and with accentuation. The three signalling devices do not have to coincide, and can therefore be assumed to relate to slightly different aspects of focalisation. This will be illustrated with reference to variants of the example given above.
a. Focal accents
In a simpler version of the example already given, DEN Apfel hast du meiner Tochter gegeben, accent, word order and focus particle combine to select the definite article den. But starting with a basic, unmarked formulation, seven types of combination of marked utterance turn out to be possible:
- Umarked word order, normal accent, no focus particle:
Du hast meiner Tochter den APFel gegeben.
you[singular-familiar] have[present-singular-second] my[dative] daughter the[accusative] apple given ``You have given my daughter the apple.''
- Unmarked word order, marked accent, no focus particle:
Du hast meiner TOCHter den Apfel gegeben.
- Unmarked word order, unmarked accent, focus particle:
Du hast sogar meiner Tochter den APFel gegeben.
- Marked word order, normal accent, focus particle:
Meiner Tochter hast Du sogar den APFel gegeben.
Den Apfel hast Du sogar meiner TOCHter gegeben.
- Marked word order, marked accent, no focus particle:
Meiner Tochter hast DU den Apfel gegeben.
Den Apfel HAST Du meiner Tochter gegeben.
- Marked word order, marked accent, focus particle:
Meiner Tochter hast DU sogar den Apfel gegeben.
Den Apfel hast DU sogar meiner Tochter gegeben.
More variations in word order and in the positioning of accent and focus particles are possible for this example sentence than can be illustrated here: effectively, any syllable or combination of syllables can be accented for contrastive or emphatic purposes, any Noun Phrase or Adverb can be fronted, and a focus particle can occur before or after the focussed constituent.
Focalisation is one of the most challenging areas in the study of German intonation, and the largest number of recent studies on German intonation have treated this or related aspects such as topic and comment, focus and background, given and new information, signalling of the scope of semantic operators; an overview is given by Féry . In German linguistics the field is often referred to as `functional sentence perspective', funktionale Satzperspektive, a term introduced by the Prague School of linguistics (see ).
b. Anaphoric, contrastive, and emphatic accent
In broader contexts, most of the marked accent assignments already described have contrastive function. One of the contrastive functions of accent, optionally accompanied by tone group boundary marking such as a pause or a different nuclear tone, is to localise the scope of a semantic operator such as negation, as in English: Er KAM nicht, weil er viel zu TUN hatte ``He didn't COME, because he had a lot to DO'' as opposed to Er kam nicht, weil er viel zu TUN hatte (sondern weil er LUST dazu hatte) ``He didn't come because he had a lot to DO (but because he WANTED to)''. That is, in the first case, ``he came'', in the second ``he did not come''.
The standard preference for assigning a nuclear accent to the final noun in a group is overridden by the discourse condition of anaphoric or co-referential nominal groups: Kennen Sie Herrn Buschkamp? -- Ja, ich KENNE Herrn Buschkamp. ``Do you know Mr Buschkamp? -- Yes, I KNOW Mr. Buschkamp.'' The noun Buschkamp is anaphoric; the verb KENNE is neither focussed nor contrastively accented; in fact, it is also anaphoric (see Gibbon ). There is apparently no striking acoustic difference between this form of accentuation in anaphoric contexts and contrastive accent, though experimental evidence on this is lacking. Accent assignment in anaphoric contexts is sometimes misleadingly referred to as `de-accenting', but there is no reason to suppose that in such cases the anaphoric expression is in some sense first accented and then de-accented.
Emphatic, or emotive accents, are not necessarily different in kind from other accents, but basically just have `more of everything'. In particular, they have broader pitch modulation and more extreme syllable lengthening than non-emphatic accents, as in Schön! ``Lovely!'', where the ö may be extremely long.