Prosody, procedures and pragmatics

Scott, Kate (2017) Prosody, procedures and pragmatics. In: Depraetere, Ilse and Salkie, Raphael, (eds.) Semantics and pragmatics : drawing a line. Berlin, Germany : Springer International Publishing. pp. 323-341. (Logic, Argumentation & Reasoning, (11)) ISBN 9783319322452


Prosodic cues perform a range of communicative functions. While lexical tonal contrasts are clearly linguistic and semantic in nature, others seem distinctly more natural. Affective intonation, for example, seems to make use of natural, rather than linguistic codes, and contrastive stress affects interpretation without encoding anything at all. These different types and degrees of encoding interact with general pragmatic principles to contribute to speaker meaning, and as such prosody spans the semantics-pragmatics interface. In this chapter I take a relevance-theoretic,procedural approach to prosody, and argue that such an approach allows us to bridge the gap between existing linguistic and natural analyses. I particularly focus on contrastive stress in English. Following existing work in the relevance theoretic framework, I argue that contrastive stress is a natural highlighting device. By drawing attention to a particular part of an utterance, a speaker can both prompt her hearer to seek out extra or different interpretive effects and guide her as to where those effects should be found. I end the chapter by suggesting that we might develop our understanding of how prosody contributes to meaning by drawing on parallels with the interpretation of music. Just as composers may play with an audience’s expectations in order to create certain emotional effects, so a speaker can guide interpretation by confirming or confounding a hearer’s prosodic expectations.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page