The prosodic marking of rhetorical questions in Standard Chinese

Katharina Zahner, Manluolan Xu, Yiya Chen, Nicole Dehé, Bettina Braun


We investigated the prosody of rhetorical questions (RQs) as compared to string-identical information-seeking questions (ISQs) in Standard Chinese – a language in which f0 is considerably constrained by lexical tone. Our results show that overall RQs have a lower mean f0 than ISQs. F0 is also locally modified (on the first and last constituent) to mark illocution type. Additionally, RQs have longer durations than ISQs and show more instances of glottalized voice, mainly towards the end of the interrogative. Hence, similar to intonation languages, Standard Chinese uses prosody to distinguish between these two illocution types. Our findings hence suggest f0, duration, and voice quality to be cross-linguistic signals of rhetorical meaning, with their implementation being language-specific.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-80

Cite as: Zahner, K., Xu, M., Chen, Y., Dehé, N., Braun, B. (2020) The prosodic marking of rhetorical questions in Standard Chinese. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 389-393, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-80.


@inproceedings{Zahner2020,
  author={Katharina Zahner and Manluolan Xu and Yiya Chen and Nicole Dehé and Bettina Braun},
  title={{The prosodic marking of rhetorical questions in Standard Chinese}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={389--393},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-80},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-80}
}