How to be kind with prosody

Michael Wagner

What was said is often interpreted relative to what was left unsaid. Evaluate statements such as 'That's good' can sound negative, because the speaker could have said 'great' instead. 'That's great', on the other hand, might be interpreted as 'not so great', if we believe the speaker was just being nice. How, then, can we ever credibly convey our true intentions when making evaluate statements? We present evidence showing that prosody can be used to modulate the interpretation of evaluative statements, and can specifically be used to preempt inferences about positive evaluations toward a more negative interpretation. It is less able to modulate negative evaluations. The observed asymmetry makes sense if we tend to be kind to each other, and inflate our evaluative statements toward the nicer end of the spectrum.

DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2016-257

Cite as

Wagner, M. (2016) How to be kind with prosody. Proc. Speech Prosody 2016, 1250-1253.

author={Michael Wagner},
title={How to be kind with prosody},
booktitle={Speech Prosody 2016},