Interpreting rising intonation in Australian English

Janet Fletcher, Deborah Loakes, University of Melbourne

Australian English is referred to widely as a rising variety of English due to the prevalence of rising tunes in interactive discourse. Australian English subjects were required to listen to a series of rising stimuli that varied in terms of pitch level and pitch span and were asked whether they heard a question or statement. The results showed that both rise span and pitch level of the rise elbow influenced the pattern of responses. If both were relatively high, subjects were most likely to interpret the rise as a question, with fewer question responses when the rise elbow was relatively low and the pitch span narrow. The results provide limited evidence for two simple rises in Australian English, but also confirm a high level of phonetic gradience amongst rising tunes in this variety.