Intonational polar question markers and implicature in American English and Majorcan Catalan

Author(s): Meghan E. Armstrong and Maria Del Mar Vanrell

Abstract

We offer an experimental approach to the study of the types of implicatures generated by polar question intonation in American English and Majorcan Catalan, which is rising and falling, respectively. In a categorization task, we show that discourse context affects whether listeners perceive utterances produced with the polar question markers (PQMs) to be declaratives versus questions. Results from an intention identification task show that PQMs in specific discourse contexts generate pragmatic implicatures, but that the “questioning” meaning of PQMs seems to persist, suggesting that PQMs give rise to conventional implicatures. While some language-specific differences were identified, results suggest that regardless of the direction of the contour, PQMs may generate similar types of implicatures cross-linguistically, and should be investigated with a larger sampling of languages.

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