The interpretation of the high-rise question contour in English

Julia Hirschberg*, Gregory Ward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We investigate the meaning of the high-rise question contour in English, described in Pierrehumbert (1980) as 'H* H H%'. Previous studies have characterized this contour in terms of speaker attitude or in terms of the relationship of the propositional content of utterances to some aspect of their discourse context. Based on an analysis of naturally-occurring data, we propose that speakers employ H*H H% to convey that the propositional content of the utterance is to be added to speaker and hearer's 'mutual beliefs' (those shared by speaker and hearer and believed by them to be shared), and to question whether the hearer can relate that propositional content to the contents of the hearer's own (unshared) beliefs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-412
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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