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The prosody of rhetorical questions: a cross-linguistic view

Zurück zum Heft: Linguistische Berichte Heft 269
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This paper provides a survey of our knowledge of the prosody of rhetorical questions, i.e. questions that do not require an answer and try to commit the listener to the presupposed answer, as compared to the prosody of string-identical genuine, information seeking-questions. The survey includes semantic literature on questions, corpus data, and experimental evidence from production and perception experiments. It covers a range of typologically different languages (German, English, Icelandic, Italian, Standard Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, French) that have different word-level and phrase-level characteristics. The main finding is that rhetorical and information seeking questions differ reliably in terms of the following prosodic characteristics: (i) f0-features (e.g., position and type of pitch accent, type of boundary tone, as well as more global f0-parameters, depending on language type); (ii) duration / speaking rate (rhetorical questions are typically longer / produced with slower speaking rate than information-seeking questions). Often, but not always, rhetorical questions are produced with non-modal voice quality.

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Linguistische Berichte Heft 269
Steinbach, Markus | Grewendorf , Günther | von Stechow, Arnim (Hg.)

Linguistische Berichte Heft 269