Cost of the action and social distance affect the selection of question intonation in Catalan

Astruc, Lluisa; Vanrell, Maria del Mar and Prieto, Pilar (2016). Cost of the action and social distance affect the selection of question intonation in Catalan. In: Armstrong, Meghan E.; Henriksen, Nicholas and Vanrell, Maria del Mar eds. Intonational Grammar in Ibero-Romance: Approaches across linguistic subfields. John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 91–114.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/ihll.6.05ast

Abstract

This chapter examines how politeness in offers and requests is encoded by intonation in Catalan, a language which uses two distinct intonational pitch contours for unbiased yes-no questions. Fifteen Central Catalan speakers participated in a Discourse Completion Task that elicited offers and requests in scenarios controlled for level of social distance, power, and cost of the action. The data were prosodically and pragmatically analyzed. The results showed that cost of the action and social distance have significant effects on intonation choices: speakers use rising pitch patterns more frequently with high-level cost offers and with high-level cost requests. The rising pattern is also preferred with high-level distance requests. In general, the falling pattern tends to be used more frequently with offers. The study shows that politeness factors need to be taken into account in the description of intonation choices across languages.

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