The expression of politeness and pitch height in Russian imperatives

Aleksandra Chikulaeva, Mariapaola D'Imperio


Based on the theory biological codes [1], the Frequency code [2] claims that pitch height is a universal correlate of politeness. Other frameworks, while taking a pragmatic approach, [3], [4] claim that high pitch can be employed in both polite and impolite contours and argue for the importance of socio-pragmatic variables in the expression of politeness. Work on Russian prosody suggests though that the degree of politeness decreases with higher f0 in falling contours related to imperatives [5], [6], [7]. The present study investigates the relationship between f0 height, pitch accent type and conveyed attitude in Russian imperatives when social distance (power relationship) is manipulated. A discourse completion task, in which both speakers’ power and attitude were manipulated, was carried out to test our hypotheses. Our results show that higher f0 values are found for both rising and falling polite imperatives, though this was not the case for downstepped pitch accents. Moreover, speakers’ social power did not show a significant effect. Our findings underline the need to take into account pitch accent type and speech act to predict fundamental frequency values in polite contexts.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-89

Cite as: Chikulaeva, A., D'Imperio, M. (2018) The expression of politeness and pitch height in Russian imperatives. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 438-442, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-89.


@inproceedings{Chikulaeva2018,
  author={Aleksandra Chikulaeva and Mariapaola D'Imperio},
  title={The expression of politeness and pitch height in Russian imperatives},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018},
  pages={438--442},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-89},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-89}
}