Speech Prosody 2012

Shanghai, China
May 22-25, 2012

The Pragmatic Functions of Prosody in English Cleft Sentences

Sophie Herment, Laetitia Leonarduzzi

Laboratoire Parole et Langage, Aix-Marseille Université, France

The prosodic and pragmatic analysis of some 450 examples of clefts, taken in corpora of spontaneous and natural speech, sheds light on the different functions that prosody can take on in discourse. The prosodic analysis is mainly based on the number of tone units, the place of the nuclear syllable and the pitch movement. The context is also taken into account. We show that clefts display a variety of prosodic patterns, which can have several pragmatic functions. The role of prosody can be to indicate the information structure of the cleft sentence (a falling tone for informative elements), to annihilate focalisation on the so-called “focus” (the focused element is deaccented) or reinforce it (with a marked tone), or to mark contrast or emphasis on the presupposed element (marked tone or tonicity).

Index Terms: prosody; discourse; pragmatic functions; syntax; prosody/discourse interface; information structure; itclefts; wh-clefts; reverse wh-clefts; focalisation; emphasis; contrast.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Herment, Sophie / Leonarduzzi, Laetitia (2012): "The pragmatic functions of prosody in English cleft sentences", In SP-2012, 713-716.