SRPP: Effects of conventions and social context on tune interpretation

Traditionally, a clear distinction has been drawn between the phonological and phonetic levels of intonation analysis, as they would convey linguistic (e.g., illocutionary) and paralinguistic (e.g., affective) meanings, respectively. However, a growing body of evidence reveals that tune meaning is multidimensional and flexible, with the choice of a tune depending both on linguistic and paralinguistic purposes. In this talk, I will present a collaborative work on the effects of tune choice on listeners’ interpretation of affective meanings. By means of two behavioral experiments, I will show that (1) listeners exploit their knowledge about the conventional association between illocutionary acts (requests, offers) and intonation (rising, falling) to infer certain kinds of affects (concerning speaker authority, mood or sincerity) and (2) this ‘inferential process’ is partially modulated by listeners’ knowledge about the speaker-addressee social relationships. Taken together, these results reinforce findings that the phonological contour is a fundamental cue for perlocutionary/affective meanings, and that such meanings are partly context-dependent.