Pitch Accent Variation and the Interpretation of Rising and Falling Intonation in American English

Thomas Sostarics, Jennifer Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This study tests the division of labor in the meaning conveyed by pitch accents and edge tones in English intonation. In three perception studies, we investigate where the locus of the contrast between an assertive vs inquisitive interpretation resides. By doing so, we also gain insight into the role of potentially meaningful within- and between-category variation in the phonetic implementation of discrete intonational tunes. We find that the pitch accent does not contribute to assertive interpretation. Rather, the distinction between assertive and inquisitive interpretation is cued primarily by the final F0 of the pitch contour regardless of the pitch accent, but that increased overall pitch prominence may trigger a salient focus interpretation that interferes with judging assertiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-101
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association, INTERSPEECH
StatePublished - 2023
Event24th International Speech Communication Association, Interspeech 2023 - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: Aug 20 2023Aug 24 2023


  • compositionality
  • intonational meaning
  • prosody
  • rising declaratives
  • speech perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Signal Processing
  • Software
  • Modeling and Simulation


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