The prosody of rhetorical vs. information-seeking questions in Icelandic

Nicole Dehé, Bettina Braun, Daniela Wochner


This paper reports on a production experiment investigating the prosodic realization of rhetorical questions (RQs) as compared to information seeking questions (ISQs) in Icelandic. It looks at two question types: polar questions (Borðar einhver límónur? 'Does anybody eat limes?') and wh-questions (Hver borðar límónur? 'Who eats limes?'). The main results are as follows. (i) In both question types, the boundary tone fails to contribute to the distinction between ISQs and RQs. It is L% almost across the board. (ii) The semantic difference between ISQs and RQs is reflected in the nuclear accents: In wh-questions, ISQs have more monotonal (H*/!H*/^H*) pitch accents, while RQs have more bitonal ones (mostly L+H*/L+!H*/L+^H*) In polar questions, nuclear accents are mostly L+H, but the timing of the rise differs (more L*+H in ISQs, more L+H* in RQs). (iii) The first word of the utterance and the nuclear syllable are longer in RQs than in ISQs in both question types. Within the nuclear syllable, both onset and rhyme are lengthened. Taken together, prosody helps to distinguish between ISQs and RQs, but the terminus of the intonational contour (boundary tone) is not essential.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-82

Cite as: Dehé, N., Braun, B., Wochner, D. (2018) The prosody of rhetorical vs. information-seeking questions in Icelandic. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 403-407, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-82.


@inproceedings{Dehé2018,
  author={Nicole Dehé and Bettina Braun and Daniela Wochner},
  title={The prosody of rhetorical vs. information-seeking questions in Icelandic},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018},
  pages={403--407},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-82},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-82}
}