Pitch scaling as a perceptual cue for questions in German


Recent studies on the intonation of German suggest that the phonetic realization may contribute to the signaling of questions. In a previous production study polar questions, alternative questions and continuous statements were found to differ by a gradual increase in pitch scaling of a phonologically identical final rising contour [1]. Based on similar findings for Dutch Haan [2] concludes that the meaning signaled by the phonetic realization indicates an attitude rather than a categorical function. This is supported by Chen’s [3] perception studies on question intonation in Dutch, Hungarian and Mandarin Chinese as well as early findings for German by Batliner [4]. This paper investigates whether the phonetic realization of intonation in questions signals the categorical pragmatic function of ‘interrogativity’ or rather a ‘questioning’ attitude. Additionally, we investigate, which phonetic parameter is the decisive cue to this meaning. Three perception studies are reported: a combination of an identification and discrimination task, an imitation task, and a semantic rating task. Results suggest that the phonetic implementation of intonation in German questions signals an attitude rather than a linguistic category and that this function is primarily signaled by the offset of the final rising pitch movement.

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@inproceedings{Michalsky2015PitchSA, title={Pitch scaling as a perceptual cue for questions in German}, author={Jan Michalsky}, booktitle={INTERSPEECH}, year={2015} }