Intonational phonology and politeness in L1 and L2 Spanish

Astruc, Lluïsa and del Mar Vanrell, Maria (2016). Intonational phonology and politeness in L1 and L2 Spanish. Probus, 28(1) pp. 91–118.



This study makes a foray into the politeness strategies used by English learners of Spanish by comparing a corpus of invitations and requests recorded by 14 adult English learners of beginner-level Spanish as part of their course assignment to the data recorded by 12 native speakers. The native speakers’ data was collected using discourse completion tests, which elicited offers and requests in scenarios controlled for social distance, power, and the cost of the request or offer. All the data was analysed pragmatically, by quantifying the occurrence of politeness strategies, and phonologically, by transcribing pitch accents and boundary tones in line with the guidelines of the Autosegmental Metrical framework. The results show that, depending on the situation, native speakers combine the use of different lexical and morpho-syntactic devices with the use of specific intonational patterns. Most learners at beginner level correctly use a limited range of morphosyntactic politeness strategies appropriate to their level, and these are frequently reinforced with intonation. However, our data also show that beginner learners often transfer the intonational patterns of their first language.

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