The 4th International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages

Nijmegen, The Netherlands
May 13-16, 2014

Perception of Tonal Contrasts of Non-Exhaustivity in Brazilian Portuguese: An Experimental Study

Daise Ribeiro Carpes (1), Juan Manuel Sosa (1,2), Izabel Christine Seara (1)

(1) Programa de Pós-graduação em Linguística, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil
(2) Linguistics Department, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

In this paper we discuss the perception of tonal contrasts of non-exhaustivity in Brazilian Portuguese in the interface prosody-semantics-pragmatics. In previous work on the production of F0 contours of utterances with non-exhaustive, exhaustive and contrastive foci [1], which was based on the speech of Florianópolis, eight subjects were asked to respond to three different situations designed to elicit the three foci. That production experiment tested whether the comprehension of non-exhaustive, exhaustive and contrastive foci is purely pragmatic in conversation, or if prosody, namely the tonal structure of the sentences, has a crucial role in this process. The results revealed that non-exhaustive focus is expressed by means of specific intonational contours, but also that the pitch curves with either exhaustive or contrastive focus seem to have a very similar intonational shape; for this reason these other foci would need lexical markers like ‘only’ and ‘not’. On the basis of those production results, the current paper addresses the question of whether and how intonation can direct the interpretation by listeners exposed to utterances with non-exhaustive focus, comparing these intonational contours with those of utterances with exhaustive and contrastive foci. With this purpose, two perceptual tests are carried out with twelve listeners. They ratified the proposed prosodic encodings of the types of foci under scrutiny in the tonal aspects of these foci, but not with respect to the relative duration of the syllables that make up the intonational nucleus of the sentences that have been analysed. The first perception test had the aim of verifying whether the tonal patterns identified as the most recurrent for each one of the foci under study would be so interpreted by the listeners; the second one has the aim of verifying timing, duration and pitch range issues. The results of the perception tests has revealed that there is a specific F0 curve that characterizes perceptually the non-exhaustive focus, described as a low prenucleus (L*), and a rising-falling nucleus (¡H*L%). These results have also revealed some effects with respect to the relative duration of the unstressed syllables as compared with the stressed one in the nuclear region of the utterances. Regarding the pitch contour distinction between non-exhaustive and contrastive foci, we identified a significant and systematic increase in the pitch height of the non-exhaustive focus, which suggests that pitch range is at least one of the parameters that characterizes and distinguishes the non-exhaustivity tonal design.


  1. Carpes, D. R., Sosa, J. M., Seara, I. C., “Experimento de produção sobre a prosódia da não exaustividade no português brasileiro”, in Revista Leitura, n. 51, 2014 (in press).

Index Terms: tone, intonation, production, perception, Brazilian Portuguese.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Carpes, Daise Ribeiro / Sosa, Juan Manuel / Seara, Izabel Christine (2014): "Perception of tonal contrasts of non-exhaustivity in Brazilian Portuguese: an experimental study", In TAL-2014, 108-111.