The prosody of rhetorical and information-seeking questions in Estonian: preliminary results

Eva Liina Asu, Heete Sahkai, Pärtel Lippus


This study provides one of the first systematic comparisons of the prosody of different speech acts in Estonian investigating characteristics of rhetorical questions (RQs) as compared to information-seeking questions (ISQs). Phonological features such as the type and distribution of pitch accents and boundary tones, and phonetic features such as utterance duration, pitch range and mean pitch were analysed on the basis of materials from six speakers. The data consisted of identical RQs and ISQs in the form of an equal number of polar questions and wh-questions. The analysis revealed several differences between the two speech acts. Although both were produced mainly with an H*L pitch accent the distribution of accents varied depending on the type. RQs had on average a larger number of prenuclear pitch accents, whereas ISQs were significantly more often produced with a high boundary tone (H%) than RQs. The two speech acts were also distinguished by phonetic characteristics in that RQs had a longer duration, narrower pitch range and lower mean pitch than ISQs. In comparison with Germanic languages, Estonian seems to rely more on phonetic features and less on phonological properties when differentiating RQs from ISQs.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-78

Cite as: Asu, E.L., Sahkai, H., Lippus, P. (2020) The prosody of rhetorical and information-seeking questions in Estonian: preliminary results. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 381-384, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-78.


@inproceedings{Asu2020,
  author={Eva Liina Asu and Heete Sahkai and Pärtel Lippus},
  title={{The prosody of rhetorical and information-seeking questions in  Estonian: preliminary results}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={381--384},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-78},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-78}
}