Secondary correlates of question signaling in Manchego Spanish

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This paper reports on an acoustic analysis of secondary prosodic cues of question signaling (baseline slope, speech rate, stressed syllable duration), comparing declarative statements, declarative questions, and wh-questions in Peninsular Spanish. The signaling of questions has been reported as more complex than the ‘high vs. low pitch’ dichotomy often referenced in the literature. Our analysis reveals that baseline slope may be the best phonetic property for categorizing wh-questions separately from statements and declarative questions; measures of speech rate and syllable duration are not a straightforward heuristic for differentiating sentence types. The distributional and statistical results are contrary to van Heuven & Haan’s (2000, 2002) idea that there is a relative prosodic marking of question type based on the number of lexico-syntactic devices used to signal a question. We propose that the tonal categories that comprise an intonational melody may account for tempo differences within and across question types, along the lines of Gussenhoven’s (2004) effort code.


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