16th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association

Dresden, Germany
September 6-10, 2015

Pitch Scaling as a Perceptual Cue for Questions in German

Jan Michalsky

Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, Germany

Recent studies on the intonation of German suggest that the phonetic realization may contribute to the signaling of questions. In a previous production study polar questions, alternative questions and continuous statements were found to differ by a gradual increase in pitch scaling of a phonologically identical final rising contour [1]. Based on similar findings for Dutch Haan [2] concludes that the meaning signaled by the phonetic realization indicates an attitude rather than a categorical function. This is supported by Chen's [3] perception studies on question intonation in Dutch, Hungarian and Mandarin Chinese as well as early findings for German by Batliner [4]. This paper investigates whether the phonetic realization of intonation in questions signals the categorical pragmatic function of `interrogativity' or rather a `questioning' attitude. Additionally, we investigate, which phonetic parameter is the decisive cue to this meaning. Three perception studies are reported: a combination of an identification and discrimination task, an imitation task, and a semantic rating task. Results suggest that the phonetic implementation of intonation in German questions signals an attitude rather than a linguistic category and that this function is primarily signaled by the offset of the final rising pitch movement.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Michalsky, Jan (2015): "Pitch scaling as a perceptual cue for questions in German", In INTERSPEECH-2015, 924-928.