new paper on high fall

Gibson, Emma, Torreira, Francisco, and Wagner, Michael. (2020). The high-fall contour in North American English: A case study in imperatives. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020. [paper]

Imperatives are often uttered with a standard declarative falling contour. However, there are several claims that they can be pronounced with different tunes, leading to different illocutionary as well as attitudinal import. In this paper, we investigate one such tune, which we categorize as the “high-fall contour” and can be described as a nuclear high accent that is often scaled higher (or ‘upstepped’) compared to earlier accents. We show that it is used in the context of “weak” (suggestion-like) and “repeated” or “redundant” imperatives. The “weak” usage of the high-fall seems contradictory in pragmatic flavour to its use in repetitions, which usually sound like definite commands and not suggestions. We test for whether these uses may be distinguishable based on prenuclear patterns, as has been suggested in prior literature, and ultimately do not find evidence to suggest the tunes are distinct. We also observe that, surprisingly, imperative repetition leads to a lengthening of duration.

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