Intonational Encoding of Pragmatic Meaning in Puerto Rican Spanish Interrogatives

Meghan E. Armstrong, The Ohio State University

Puerto Rican Spanish, a variety that prefers a final rise-fall rather than a fall-rise for yes-no questions has been claimed to have a default contour for information-seeking questions and a special configuration used only for biased negative questions. This study investigates the pragmatic division of labor for the nuclear configurations used for information-seeking questions, confirmation-seeking questions, biased negative questions and incredulity questions. Four contours are presented here: H* L\%, (H+)L* HL\%, H+L* L\% and L+¡H* L\%. None of these were favored significantly for the biased negation condition, disfavoring the idea that there is a special contour used for biased negative questions. H+L* L\% was the most common contour (52\%) for the information-seeking question condition, and was found to be the least preferred for biased contexts. However, H* L\% was also commonly found for information-seeking questions (41\%). A native speaker judged H* L\% and L+¡H* L\% as indicating interest and/or surprise while this did not seem to be the case for H+L* L\%, indicating a possible relationship between tune choice and level of speaker affectedness in Puerto Rican Spanish. The rather consistent use of (H+)L* HL\% for a specific type of surprise, incredulity, also supports this idea.