The complex relationship between the tunes and pragmatics of Greek wh-questions
Amalia Arvaniti, Stella Gryllia, Mary Baltazani
April 2024

This paper discusses the tunes used with canonical (information-seeking) and non-canonical wh-questions in Greek and presents their pragmatic interpretation based on a compositional approach to intonation meaning that has as its starting point an AM account of the tunes. The analysis is based on a corpus of spontaneous wh-questions from a variety of speakers and communicative situations. We show that wh-questions in Greek can be produced with a variety of tunes each of which is used both for different types of wh-questions but also employed for other purposes. Thus, each tune’s meaning depends on and is augmented by lexical choices, context, and the interlocutors’ knowledge of the situation. In turn, such knowledge or lack thereof can lead to different types of conversational interactions. In brief, we show that different types of wh-questions are not necessarily distinguished by means of intonation. Further, our pragmatic analysis of the tunes indicates that not all components of an intonational system are used to encode a specific function such as information structure, theme/rheme distinctions, or epistemic stance; rather, all of the above may be partially encoded using intonation. Finally, the investigation of our corpus testifies to the need to examine spontaneous speech elicited in different communicative situations, as these encourage the effortless use of specific discourse devices that cannot be as effectively elicited in the laboratory. It follows that firm conclusions about intonation structure and meaning cannot be drawn either by relying on laboratory speech alone or by considering data elicited by means of only one task, however natural it may be.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/008022
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: The Netherlands
keywords: intonation, wh-questions, non-canonical questions, greek, intonation pragmatics, rhetorical questions, conjectural questions, pedagogical questions, echo question, wh-in-situ questions, phonology
previous versions: v1 [April 2024]
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