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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 24, 2017

The Role of Prosody in the Identification of Persian Sentence Types: Declarative or Wh-question?

  • Zohreh Shiamizadeh EMAIL logo , Johanneke Caspers and Niels O. Schiller
From the journal Linguistics Vanguard


It has been reported that prosody contributes to the identification of utterances which lack lexico-syntactic indicators of interrogativity but do have characteristic prosodic correlates (e.g. Vion and Colas 2006. Pitch cues for the recognition of yes-no questions in French. Journal of Psycholinguistics Research 35. 427–445). In Persian wh-in-situ questions, the interrogativity device (the wh-phrase) does not move to the sentence-initial position, and the pre-wh part is characterized by specific prosodic correlates (Shiamizadeh et al. 2016. Do Persian native speakers prosodically mark wh-in-situ questions? Manuscript submitted for publication). The current experiment investigates the role of prosody in the perception of Persian wh-in-situ questions as opposed to declaratives. To this end, an experiment was designed in which Persian native speakers were asked to choose the correct sentence type after hearing only the pre-wh part of a sentence. We hypothesized that prosody guides perception of wh-in-situ questions independent of wh-phrase type. The results of the experiment corroborate our hypothesis. The outcome is discussed in terms of Ohala´s frequency code, and Bolinger´s claim about the universal dichotomous association between relaxation and declarativity on the one hand and tension and interrogativity on the other hand.


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Appendix I

Structure and word constituents of the sentences from which the stimuli of this experiment is extracted. Only the pre-wh part (subject and the adverb) comprise the stimuli of this experiment.

SubjectAdverb3rd constituent of the sentenceVerb
1) mohæmædʔæmin1) pæriruz1) tʃi (what)Inanimate DObtæʔmir kærdæn
(Mohamadamin)(two days ago)1) kæfʃ (shoe)(repair)
2) kif (bag)
2) mohæmædʔæli2) ki (who)Animate DOdæʔvæt kærdæn
(Mohamadali)1) jɑs (Yas)(invite)
2) nɑz (Naz)
3) kodʒɑ (where)Adjuct of Placecbɑzi kærdæn (play)
1) dʒængæl (jungle)
2) kutʃe (street)
4) kej (when)Adjunct of Timeʃenɑ kærdæn (swim)
1) zohr (noon)
2) ʔæsr (afternoon)
5) tʃetori (how)Adjunct of Mannersohbæt kærdæn (talk)
1) bɑ ʔænduh (sadly)
2) bɑ deqæt (carefully)
  1. aDWC refers (declarative wh-phrase counterpart) to the categories which replace the wh-phrase in declaratives.

    bDO refers to direct object. The object marker “ra” occurs after direct object in declaratives and wh-in-situ questions.

    cThe preposition “tu” which means “at” precedes the adjunct of place in declaratives but not in wh-in-situ questions.

Appendix II

Descriptive statistics of the prosodic correlates of the stimuli across sentence types.


SD (Decl)

SD (Wh-q)
F0 onset (ERB)5.0825.92840
Subject Pitch Excursion (ERB)1.0251.74040
Adverb Pitch Excursion (ERB)0.6221.43040
Slope of regression line of the pre-wh part (ERB/sec)0.1430.95440
F0 mean of the pre-wh part (ERB)4.9035.66640
Duration of the pre-wh part (in sec)1.3601.04340
Received: 2016-10-10
Accepted: 2017-3-17
Published Online: 2017-8-24

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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