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The relationship between meaning and intonation in non-exhaustive answers: evidence from Basque

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Abstract

In this paper we analyze the intonational properties of a type of focus construction that has been understudied, represented by answers to wh-questions in which the constituent that fills the variable does not do so exhaustively, that is, it does not provide an exhaustive answer because the speaker cannot commit to asserting that the other potential alternative candidates to fill the variable are cancelled. This type of narrow focus, Non-Exhaustive Narrow Focus (NENF), is different from Exhaustive Narrow Focus (ENF), in which a constituent fills the variable of the question exhaustively, with a concomitant cancellation of the rest of the focal alternatives. Our claim is that natural languages have the means to distinguish ENF and NENF unambiguously through prosodic means. In the present study, we show that speakers of (Northern Bizkaian) Basque assign particular intonational features to answers to wh-questions that should be interpreted non-exhaustively. In our experiment, we measured peak scaling of accents in the subject and the verb in ENF and NENF utterances. The results show that NENF is distinguished from ENF in having a pitch accent on the verb with a higher F0 value, almost as if the verb were focalized. In fact, we compared the intonational patterns of NENF with Verum Focus constructions, in which the polarity of the event expressed by the verb is focalized, and there were no significant differences in the verbal peaks in NENF and VF. There were no significant differences in peak scaling in the subject's stressed syllable between ENF and NENF, and neither were there any differences between NENF and VF. The paper offers a semantic analysis of the differences between ENF and NENF, by claiming that NENF is a split focus construction, in which both the subject and the polarity (or rather, the pairing between the subject and the polarity) constitute the focus of the utterance.
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artxibo-00645207 , version 1 (27-11-2011)

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  • HAL Id : artxibo-00645207 , version 1

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Gorka Elordieta, Aritz Irurtzun. The relationship between meaning and intonation in non-exhaustive answers: evidence from Basque. 2011. ⟨artxibo-00645207⟩
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