A comparative prosodic study of questions in French in contact with Occitan and Catalan


In the south of France, the French language has developed in contact with Occitan in Provence and Languedoc, in contact with Catalan in Roussillon. This study reports on a first analysis of data collected in these regions, during a field survey carried out among speakers of Occitan and Catalan, in addition to French. In particular, we compared the prosody of yes/no questions ending in a word stressed on the penultimate syllable (e.g caserna ‘barracks’ in Occitan or Catalan, caserne with a pronounced final schwa in southern French). On the last two syllables of questions, it turns out that the rising-rising pitch pattern is the most common and, according to a perception experiment using prosody modification/resynthesis, that it is preferred to a falling-rising pattern by Southern French listeners (without significant differences between Provence and Languedoc). A falling-rising pattern was also observed in Roussillon, possibly resulting from a prosodic transfer from Catalan to French. It was not associated with that region by Southern French listeners who took part in a second perceptual experiment. Yet, the intonation patterns found may have different functions: the rising-rising pattern, especially, is most often interpreted as a confirmation query. 

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