Speech Prosody 2002

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

The Prosody of Questions in Natural Discourse

Nancy Hedberg, Juan M. Sosa

Department of Linguistics, Simon Fraser University, Canada

For this paper, we examined a corpus of 73 wh-questions and yes/no questions, both positive and negative, from natural discourse. We found that the locus of interrogation (the initial auxiliary in yes/no questions or the initial wh-word in whquestions) most frequently gets an L+H* pitch accent, especially in wh-questions and negative yes/no questions. Positive yes/no questions are more variable, and included 40% unstressed auxiliaries. Nuclear stress was primarily falling in wh-questions, as expected; but positive yes/no questions were almost twice as often falling or level as rising, contrary to expectation. Finally, the topic of the question turned out to be marked primarily with some version of an H* accent rather than an L+H* accent, and the focus with L+H* rather than some variant of H*, contrary to predictions in the literature.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Hedberg, Nancy / Sosa, Juan M. (2002): "The prosody of questions in natural discourse", In SP-2002, 375-378.