Goodhue & Wagner (2016) – Intonation, yes and no

Intonation, yes and no
Daniel GoodhueMichael Wagner
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July 2016

English polar particles yes and no seem to be interchangeable in response to negative sentences, that is, either can be used to convey both positive and negative responses. While some recent research has been devoted to explaining this phenomenon (Kramer & Rawlins, 2009; Cooper & Ginzburg, 2011; Krifka, 2013b; Roelofsen & Farkas, 2015; Holmberg, 2016), questions remain. Primary among them is whether intonation differs depending on whether the response is positive or negative, and whether intonation can affect the interpretation of polar particle responses. In a series of experiments, we demonstrate that the contradiction contour (Liberman & Sag, 1974) is an intonation that is only produced on positive responses to negative polar questions, and that it influences how hearers interpret bare particle responses. Our experimental results also confirm the phenomenon of interchangeability, and add new evidence regarding speakers’ preferences for using yes and no in response to negative polar questions. We discuss theories of polar particles and intonation, and how the experimental results bear on them, and conclude by considering uses of polar particles that are not easily explained by existing theories.

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Reference: lingbuzz/003082
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keywords: polar particles, yes, no, intonation, prosody, contradiction contour, negative questions, semantics, syntax, phonology