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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 30, 2015

Prosody and gesture in the interpretation of yes-answers to negative yes/no-questions

Susagna Tubau, Santiago González-Fuente, Pilar Prieto and Maria Teresa Espinal
From the journal The Linguistic Review

Abstract

In this paper we investigate the role of prosody and gesture in the interpretation of yes-answers to negative yes/no-questions in Catalan, a language with a polarity-based system of confirmation/contradiction of negative yes/no-questions. Two rating experiments were conducted to test (i) whether yesanswers to negative yes/no-questions are perceived as ambiguous by Catalan speakers when prosody and gesture are not available (Experiment 1), and (ii) whether the interpretation of ‘yes’ as an answer to a negative yes/no-question is dependent on prosodic and gestural properties of the answer (Experiment 2). Our results show that yes always asserts a salient propositional discourse referent, which can be either p or ¬p. Intonation and gesture guide the interpretation of yesanswers to negative yes/no-questions in Catalan, and we show that a yesanswer with a marked intonation and gesture is to be interpreted as a denial or REJECT of a salient propositional discourse referent.

Published Online: 2015-1-30
Published in Print: 2015-2-1

©2015 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Munich/Boston