Speech Prosody 2002

Aix-en-Provence, France
April 11-13, 2002

Intonation as a Constraint on Inferential Processing

Thorstein Fretheim

Department of Linguistics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

The proper role of intonation in utterance interpretation should be assessed in terms of the way that intonation interacts with other linguistic phenomena, notably with syntactic form and with grammatically encoded meaning, whether conceptual meaning of a compositional nature or procedural meaning that constrains the way in which an addressee will perform deductive inferences over conceptual representations in a bid to recover the contextual effects that make the utterance relevant to her or him. The intonation of a given utterance facilitates the addressee’s selection of the context (= set of activated assumptions) that constrains the relevance of the utterance in a way intended by the communicator. Direct coding of conventional meaning by means of intonation plays a rather marginal role in processes of utterance interpretation. This is particularly true of a prosodic system like that of Norwegian, the language providing the data to be discussed in this paper, because in Norwegian the speakers’ intonational choices are severely restricted by the presence of a word-accent system.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Fretheim, Thorstein (2002): "Intonation as a constraint on inferential processing", In SP-2002, 59-64.