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

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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 used rising pitch pattern more frequently with high-level than with low-level cost offers and requests, and also with high-level distance requests. In general, the falling pattern tended 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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