The prosodic realization of rhetorical and information-questions in German spontaneous speech

Bettina Braun, Marieke Einfeldt, Gloria Esposito, Nicole Dehé


Previous results from laboratory experiments show that German speakers use prosody to distinguish between information-seeking questions (ISQs) and rhetorical questions (RQs). In the current paper we investigate whether pitch accents and edge tones (i.e., those that were typical for RQs and ISQs in the experimental data) are also used in spontaneous speech. As compared to laboratory data, spontaneous speech data are syntactically and lexically more varied. However, notwithstanding more variation in their prosodic realization, RQs and ISQs in spontaneous speech essentially exhibit the same prosodic characteristics as RQs and ISQs in lab speech. Specifically, RQs were most often realized with an L*+H nuclear accent in both polar and wh-questions. Edge tones differed across question types. For polar ISQs, the most frequent edge tone was a high-rise H-^H%, while polar RQs were mostly realized with a high plateau (H-%) or a low-rise (L-H%). Wh-ISQs equally often ended in a low edge tone (L-%) and H-^H%, while wh-RQs most frequently terminated in L-%. RQs were furthermore produced with a slower speaking rate in both settings. Given the similarities between the results for spontaneous vs. lab speech, the use of experimental data to investigate the prosodic realization of different illocution types is validated.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-70

Cite as: Braun, B., Einfeldt, M., Esposito, G., Dehé, N. (2020) The prosodic realization of rhetorical and information-questions in German spontaneous speech. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 342-346, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-70.


@inproceedings{Braun2020,
  author={Bettina Braun and Marieke Einfeldt and Gloria Esposito and Nicole Dehé},
  title={{The prosodic realization of rhetorical and information-questions in German spontaneous speech}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={342--346},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-70},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-70}
}