Illocution and attitude: on the complex interaction between prosody and pragmatic parameters

Tommaso Raso, Bruno Rocha


This paper aims at investigating the prosodic relations between the category of illocution and that of attitude, the latter defined as the way the illocution (verbal action) is performed. We set three experiments and relative perception tests seeking to understand: (i) how different attitudes of the same illocution (Order) are perceived in different contexts; (ii) whether Order and Instruction are conveyed by the same prosodic form; (iii) how pragmatic/cognitive parameters work to accommodate a different prosodic form, using the illocutions of Offer and Question of Confirmation. We conclude that the methodology for the study of the illocutionary prosodic forms must pay close attention to the prosodic aspects of attitude, since they are always present when an illocution is performed, superposing their features over those of the illocution. We also claim that the identification of a specific illocution must consider some pragmatic and cognitive parameters, and not only prosody, since different illocutions can be prosodically performed with the same form. This becomes clear if we look for data in spontaneous speech corpora, where the pragmatic condition can be at least partially reconstructed.

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