Pitch range, gestural information, and perceived politeness in Catalan

Marianna Nadeu, Pilar Prieto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


It is known that certain prosodic aspects of speech play a role in the expression of paralinguistic meaning, yet the concrete mechanisms of how this is implemented have not yet been fleshed out. The present article attempts to explore the contribution of pitch range to the expression of politeness in information-seeking yes-no questions in Catalan. Two perception experiments were carried out with stimuli that contained a gradual increase and decrease of the pitch range at the end of two target intonation contours (rising and falling). The results of the first experiment revealed that, for both contours, increasing the pitch range of the final part of the utterance tone resulted in a decrease of perceived politeness, whereas decreasing the pitch range had no effect. The second perception experiment showed that adding contextual (gestural) information reversed the tendency. Taken together, these results point to the complex interaction between prosodic cues and contextual information (specifically, facial gestures). There is nothing intrinsically polite about using an increased pitch range, unless it is accompanied by consistent contextual information. In sum, when assessing the degree of perceived politeness of an utterance, attention has to be paid to various prosodic aspects together with contextual and gestural information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)841-854
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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