Information seeking questions and incredulity questions: gradual or categorical contrast?

Verònica Crespo-Sendra, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Maria del Mar Vanrell, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Pilar Prieto, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats

This paper investigates the perceptual cues used by Catalan listeners to distinguish between information-seeking and incredulity yes/no questions. Two experiments examined the potential contribution of pitch height of the boundary tone and duration of the last syllable as primary cues in distinguishing sentence types. The results show that a difference in pitch scaling of the boundary tone HH\% is the strongest cue for perceptually distinguishing between the two interpretations. Identification results and the absence of a consistent peak in Reaction Time measurements suggest that this perceptual contrast may be gradient rather than categorical in nature.