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The British English rising contour: an exception in read speech?

Abstract : This paper focuses on rising contours in English read speech. Our hypothesis is that they are very few in this particular speech style. This is confirmed by quantitative and qualitative analyses, conducted on a corpus of read speech by native English speakers with a standard British English accent. The main result of the quantitative analyses is that out of 1076 tone units, 82% (whether final or not) are uttered with a falling contour, which is much more than could be expected. The qualitative analyses consisted in a thorough examination of the intonation contours in relation with the syntactic characteristics of our data, as well as an analysis of the pragmatic functions of the contours. They allow us to revisit the generally accepted idea that falling contours are associated with final statements and rises with yes-no questions and continuation. We show that the tonal sequence fall plus fall is by far the most common in read speech, whatever the syntactic structure, except for enumerations. Contrary to what is stated in the literature, the main function of rising contours is not to indicate non-finality and continuation, but rather to convey attitudes, at least in read speech.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - 10:19:22 AM
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Sophie Herment, Anne Tortel, Laetitia Leonarduzzi. The British English rising contour: an exception in read speech?. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody, May 2020, Tokyo, Japan. ⟨hal-02496587⟩

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