Speech Prosody 2010

Chicago, IL, USA
May 10-14, 2010

The Role of Pitch Range in Establishing Intonational Contrasts in Catalan

Joan Borràs-Comes (1), Maria del Mar Vanrell (1), Pilar Prieto (2,1)

(1) Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain; (2) ICREA, Barcelona, Spain

In Catalan, the same rising nuclear pitch accent L+H* is used in three different sentence-types, namely statements, contrastive foci, and echo questions. Since the peak height of the rising pitch accent seems to indicate sentence type, we hypothesized that these three pragmatic meanings would be differentiated by pitch accent range. We undertook two identification tasks and analyzed the patterns of responses found as well as reaction times (RTs). The results of the identification tasks show that there is a contrast between the statement interpretation on the one hand (L+H*) and the contrastive foci and echo question interpretation on the other (L+¡H*). However, RTs clearly show that while there is a categorical difference between the statement interpretation (L+H*) and the echo question interpretation (L+¡H*), the difference between a statement interpretation and a contrastive focus interpretation is gradient. This represents further evidence that pitch range can be used to make phonological distinctions between a variety of pragmatic meanings, and strengthens the argument that this needs to be represented descriptively at the phonological level.

Index Terms: echo question intonation, contrastive focus, statement intonation, categorical perception, reaction time measures, pitch range differences, Catalan language

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Borràs-Comes, Joan / Vanrell, Maria del Mar / Prieto, Pilar (2010): "The role of pitch range in establishing intonational contrasts in Catalan", In SP-2010, paper 103.