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The intonation and pragmatics of Greek wh-questions

Baltazani, Mary, Gryllia, Stella, Arvaniti, Amalia (2020) The intonation and pragmatics of Greek wh-questions. Language and Speech, 63 (1). pp. 56-94. ISSN 0023-8309. E-ISSN 1756-6053. (doi:10.1177/0023830918823236) (KAR id:71068)


We experimentally tested three hypotheses regarding the pragmatics of two tunes (one high-ending, one flat-ending) used with Greek wh-questions: (a) the high-ending tune is associated with information-seeking questions, while the flat-ending tune is also appropriate when wh-questions are not information-seeking in which case their function can instead be akin to that of a statement; (b) the high-ending tune is more polite, and (c) more appropriate for contexts leading to information-seeking questions. The wh-questions used as experimental stimuli were elicited from four speakers in contexts likely to lead to either information-seeking or non-information-seeking uses. The speakers produced distinct tunes in response to the contexts; acoustic analysis indicates these are best analysed as L*+H L-!H% (rising), and L+H* L-L% (flat). In a perception experiment where participants heard the questions out of context, they chose answers providing information significantly more frequently after high-ending than flat-ending questions, confirming hypothesis (a). In a second experiment testing hypotheses (b) and (c), participants evaluated wh-questions for appropriateness and politeness in information- and non-information-seeking contexts. High-ending questions were rated more appropriate in information-seeking contexts, and more polite independently of context relative to their flat-ending counterparts. Finally, two follow-up experiments showed that the interpretation of the two tunes was not affected by voice characteristics of individual speakers, and confirmed a participant preference for the high-ending tune. Overall, the results support our hypotheses and lead to a compositional analysis of the meaning of the two tunes, while also showing that intonational meaning is determined by both tune and pragmatic context.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/0023830918823236
Uncontrolled keywords: Intonation; pragmatics; Greek; wh-questions; politeness; gender
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Amalia Arvaniti
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2018 19:18 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 00:08 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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