A Prosodic Configuration that Conveys Positive Assessment in American English

submitted to the International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences, 2019.

Nigel G. Ward, James A. Jodoin

Abstract: Among the meaning-bearing forms of language are, recent work suggests, ``prosodic constructions,'' that is, configurations of diverse prosodic features in specific temporal relations. However the detailed properties of such constructions have been little studied. As a case study, we here examine the ``High-Long-Quiet'' construction of American English, used for positive assessments. From subjects' judgments of systematically modified stimuli, we find: that this construction indeed conveys positive assessment, that the positive interpretation is stronger to the extent that the prosodic components are more strongly present, and that this is truly a configuration, in that the contributions of the component features depend on their temporal positions.

paper (pdf)

sample stimulus pair

all stimuli

source audios: good job neutral, good job positive, thank you neutral, thank you positive

praat script for generating stimuli


Nigel Ward's Publications