Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

Intonation, and scalar and ignorance inferences

Speaker Goodhue, Daniel
Affiliaton(s) ZAS
Date 19.03.2024, 14:00 - 15:30 Uhr
Time 14:00 o'clock
Venue ZAS, Pariser Str. 1, 10719 Berlin; Room: Ilse-Zimmermann-Raum 0.32 (Ground floor)


The rise-fall-rise contour is often viewed as conveying some kind of uncertainty (Ward & Hirschberg 1985, among many others). Thus we might expect that its presence in indirect answers to polar questions like in (1) would increase the rate of ignorance inference interpretations, and decrease the rate of scalar inference interpretations.


A: Did Bonnie eat all of the pears?

B: Bonnie ate some of the pears (with RFR intonation)

~~> Ignorance Inference: B isn't sure whether or not Bonnie ate all of the pears

~/~> Scalar Inference: B is certain that Bonnie did not eat all of the pears

In fact, some theories, such as Buccola & Haida 2018 predict that ignorance inferences must be conveyed in grammar, and suggest that the rise-fall-rise contour is likely one means of doing so.

Surprisingly, recent experimental work is claimed to produce the opposite result: rise-fall-rise increases the rate of scalar inference interpretations (de Marneffe & Tonhauser 2019, Göbel & Ronai 2024).

In this talk, we present some experimental results that conflict with the prior research, discuss possibilities for why this may be, and discuss future experimental research in preparation to further untangle the facts.