The current dissertation provides a preliminary description of the intonation of
two utterance types in Miami Cuban Spanish: broad focus declaratives and absolute
interrogatives. An experimental phonology approach was taken to collect linguistic data
in Miami, Florida. The data was collected and analyzed with the purpose of answering
the following three research questions:
1. What are the characteristics of broad focus declarative intonation in Miami
2. How do Miami Cubans differentiate between absolute (yes/no) interrogatives
and lexically and syntactically identical declarative utterances?
3. Is the intonation system changing through subsequent generations of Miami
Cubans? What are the social and linguistic factors motivating the use of the
observed intonation patterns?
Miami Cuban intonation for a declarative utterance with two content words was
analyzed as L*+H L+H* L-L%. It was revealed that there is a high rate of deaccenting in
Miami Cuban declarative utterances. Absolute interrogatives were produced with two
distinct intonation patterns, the first with a rising final F0 contour, L*+H L* H-H%, and
the second with a falling final contour, L*+H L+H* L-L%.
Miami Cuban interrogatives are differentiated from lexically and syntactically
identical declaratives through the use of a rising final contour in the case of rising
interrogative pattern and through the use of a higher F0 for both the rising and falling
A sociolinguistic study was performed using a variable rule analysis in order to
answer research question #3. The dependent variable examined was the final F0 contour
for the absolute interrogatives: rising or falling. It was discovered that immigrant
generation is a significant factor in the variation and that there is an intonational change
occurring in subsequent generations. This variation, however, does not necessarily
constitute a change in progress. The first generation favors the use of the Cuban-style
falling intonation pattern while the second generation strongly favors the rising pattern
for absolute interrogatives. The third generation, however, strongly favors the Cubanstyle
interrogative. It was also determined that the social networks of individual speakers
are a significant factor influencing the absolute interrogative intonation pattern used.