Sixth International Conference on Spoken Language Processing
(ICSLP 2000)

Beijing, China
October 16-20, 2000

Universal and Language-Specific Effects in the Perception of Question Intonation

Carlos Gussenhoven, Aoju Chen

Centre for Language Studies, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Three groups of monolingual listeners, with Standard Chinese, Dutch and Hungarian as their native language, judged pairs of trisyllabic stimuli which differed only in their pitch pattern. The segmental structure of the stimuli was made up by the experimenters and presented to subjects as being taken from a little-known language spoken on a South Pacific island. Pitch patterns consisted of a single rise-fall located on or near the second syllable. By and large, listeners selected the stimulus with the higher peak, the later peak, and the higher end rise as the one that signalled a question, regardless of language group. This result is argued to reflect innate, non-linguistic knowledge of the meaning of pitch variation, notably Ohala’s Frequency Code. A significant difference between groups is explained as due to the influence of the mother tongue.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Gussenhoven, Carlos / Chen, Aoju (2000): "Universal and language-specific effects in the perception of question intonation", In ICSLP-2000, vol.2, 91-94.