The Prosody of Questions in Brazilian Portuguese Infant Directed Speech

Cristina Name, Juan Manuel Sosa


This paper investigates the prosody of questions addressed to Brazilian Portuguese pre-verbal infants in Infant Directed Speech (IDS). We analysed yes/no and wh-questions, measuring register, pitch range, tempo, breathiness and tonal variation. Our data consist of 285 questions, of which 89 were yes/no and 196 wh-. This amounts to 32.7% of all the utterances produced by caregivers during 68 minutes of audio recordings. The subjects were the caregivers, all speakers of standard Brazilian Portuguese, in natural interaction with the babies at home. The addressees were one male and three female infants, between four-and-a half and eleven months of age. We distinguished three types of questions in terms of the expected response, as produced by adults: i) Information-seeking questions; ii) Rhetorical questions; and iii) Semi-rhetorical questions. Most questions asked to babies do not expect an answer so they would be non-genuine questions. Our results show that most yes/no questions were information-seeking (60.7%) whereas most wh-questions were rhetorical (51.5%). The great majority of questions were ‘marked’ for IDS (74.1%), by pitch, register, tempo or breathiness, although not all caregivers used the same features. We also noted that the older the infant becomes more information seeking questions are addressed to them.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-68

Cite as: Name, C., Sosa, J.M. (2020) The Prosody of Questions in Brazilian Portuguese Infant Directed Speech. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 334-337, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-68.


@inproceedings{Name2020,
  author={Cristina Name and Juan Manuel Sosa},
  title={{The Prosody of Questions in Brazilian Portuguese Infant Directed Speech}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={334--337},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-68},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-68}
}