Speech Prosody 2006

Dresden, Germany
May 2-5, 2006

Interface between Information Structure and Intonation in Dutch WH-Questions

Aoju Chen

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

This study set out to investigate how accent placement is pragmatically governed in WH-questions. Central to this issue are questions such as whether the intonation of the WH-word depends on the information structure of the non-WH word part, whether topical constituents can be accented, and whether constituents in the non-WH word part can be non-topical and accented. Previous approaches, based either on carefully composed examples or on read speech, differ in their treatments of these questions and consequently make opposing claims on the intonation of WH-questions. We addressed these questions by examining a corpus of 90 naturally occurring WH-questions, selected from the Spoken Dutch Corpus. Results show that the intonation of the WH-word is related to the information structure of the non-WH word part. Further, topical constituents can get accented and the accents are not necessarily phonetically reduced. Additionally, certain adverbs, which have no topical relation to the presupposition of the WH-questions, also get accented. They appear to function as a device for enhancing speaker engagement.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Chen, Aoju (2006): "Interface between information structure and intonation in Dutch WH-questions", In SP-2006, paper 242.