The evaluation of intonation: pitch range differences in English and in Spanish

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This chapter investigates evaluation with respect to the hearer and it shows how evaluation permeates the phonological level of linguistic description. In particular, it examines how interlocutors of different cultural backgrounds, namely, English and Spanish, perceive and evaluate certain utterances as polite or rude based on their pitch range. A perception test was designed by means of which 15 native hearers of each language evaluated different productions of the word mandarins/mandarinas which only differed with respect to their F0 scaling. The results confirmed that pitch range differences have an effect on the evaluation of sentences cross-linguistically. Whereas low pitch range productions were interpreted as “polite” in Spanish and as “rude” in English, utterances with a high pitch displacement were judged as “over-excited” in Spanish and as “polite” in English. The results corroborate the status of intonation as an off-record strategy used to signal attitude.


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