Prosody and Breathing: A Comparison Between Rhetorical and Information-Seeking Questions in German and Brazilian Portuguese

Jana Neitsch, Plinio A. Barbosa, Oliver Niebuhr


Several studies have shown that rhetorical wh-questions (RQs) and string-identical information-seeking wh-questions (ISQs) are realized with different prosodic characteristics. In contrast to ISQs, RQs have been shown to be phonetically realized with a breathier (i.e., softer) voice quality (e.g., German and English) and longer constituent durations (e.g., German, English, Icelandic). Based on similar results found for different languages, we investigate wh-RQs and sting-identical wh-ISQs in Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and German (G). We analyze (i) whether specific duration and voice-quality patterns characterize and separate the two illocution types (RQ and ISQ) in BP, and (ii) if direct measures of the respiratory sub-system reveal differences between illocution types, given that breathiness involves greater transglottal air flow which can be observed in the speakers’ chest and/or abdomen movement.

Our data suggest that, similar to G, English, and Icelandic, duration and voice quality patterns play a role in the realization of RQs compared to ISQs in BP, reinforcing the assumption that there are cross-linguistically similar phonetic features in the realization of RQs compared to ISQs. We also find that speakers of G breathe in more deeply and dynamically than speakers of BP, suggesting a link between breathing and voice quality.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2020-1607

Cite as: Neitsch, J., Barbosa, P.A., Niebuhr, O. (2020) Prosody and Breathing: A Comparison Between Rhetorical and Information-Seeking Questions in German and Brazilian Portuguese. Proc. Interspeech 2020, 1863-1867, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2020-1607.


@inproceedings{Neitsch2020,
  author={Jana Neitsch and Plinio A. Barbosa and Oliver Niebuhr},
  title={{Prosody and Breathing: A Comparison Between Rhetorical and Information-Seeking Questions in German and Brazilian Portuguese}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2020},
  pages={1863--1867},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2020-1607},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2020-1607}
}