The intonation of echo wh-questions in Ecuadorian Spanish

Author(s): Clara Huttenlauch, Sophie Egger, Daniela Wochner and Ingo Feldhausen

Abstract

In Romance languages, neutral echo wh-questions and counterexpectational (i.e., non-neutral or incredulous) echo wh-questions are usually distinguished by tonal differences in the nuclear contour. In this study, we show that Ecuadorian Spanish does not differentiate between those question types in terms of tonal targets, but by expanding the pitch range in the nuclear region. Results drawn from a production experiment based on semi-spontaneous speech with nine native speakers show that neutral as well as non-neutral echo wh-questions are realized with the same nuclear configurations, typically a rising one (L* H%). However, counterexpectational wh-questions are realized with a significantly larger pitch range than their neutral counterparts (with a difference of 2.03 semitones). From a diatopic point of view, our data indicate that there are prosodic differences in the realization of questions between the Andean and the coastal region. Speakers from the latter region realize rising as well as low and falling nuclear configurations (L* H%, L* L% and H* L%) and use a lower mean pitch. We hereby provide intonational support for the well-known division between tierras bajas ‘lowlands’ and tierras altas ‘highlands’ used for capturing the dialectal phonological variation on the segmental level of Latin-American Spanish.

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