Preaccentual pitch and speaker attitude in Dutch

E Grabe*, Carlos Gussenhoven, J Haan, E Marsi, B Post

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Native speaker reactions to high-pitched and low-pitched pronunciations of the unstressed syllables before the first pitch accent in an utterance - or high and low "preheads" respectively - show that their pragmatic effect depends on the initial pitch of the following pitch accent. The results were obtained in one specific conversational context, in which the intonation contours appeared on utterances that offered a solution to some problem, and with the help of a limited set of semantic scales. Listeners gave more favorable judgements to high preheads than to low preheads if the following pitch accent began low but when the following pitch accent began high, they gave more favorable judgements to low preheads than to high preheads. Current theories of intonational structure do not predict this kind of interaction. In these theories, the preaccentual pitch is interpreted as a separate morpheme from the following pitch accent, which suggests that the semantic contribution of the preaccentual pitch is independent of the various pitch accents with which it combines. However, these theories are not ruled out by the results, which can be accommodated if the theories are interpreted appropriately.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-85
Number of pages23
JournalLanguage and Speech
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998


  • intonation
  • meaning
  • pragmatics
  • prehead

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