Lucy Zhao, Nicole Dehé & Victoria A. Murphy, 2018
From pitch to purpose: The
prosodic-pragmatic mapping of [I + verb] belief constructions in
English and Mandarin.
Journal of Pragmatics 123: 55-57
has often been considered a universal cue of prominence across
languages. This paper presents the results of a study that aimed to
provide congruent data on the question of universality vs.
cross-linguistic variability of pragmatic-prosodic mappings (prosodic
variation as a cue to pragmatic interpretation) in a specific
linguistic construction, namely, [I + verb] belief constructs before an
opinion. Specifically, this study presents a perception test
implemented to investigate the phenonemon of cross-linguistic
pragmatic-prosodic mapping in [I + verb] belief constructs. Since
opinions carry inherent notions of speaker belief, these constructions
may initially appear superfluous. However, [I + verb] forms may
actually fulfill various pragmatic functions depending on prosodic
variation. Usage of various pragmatic functions of this construct was
analyzed and compared between native Mandarin and English speakers
using the most common belief verb, “think” (‘juede’ in Mandarin).
Results illustrated that confidence rating of prosodic-syntactic [I +
verb] variations were linked to pragmatic implicatures generated via
alternative semantics theory. Furthermore, the same confidence rating
trends appeared across both Mandarin and English, exhibiting a similar
pragmatic-prosodic mapping for [I + verb] across these typologically
different languages. This study thereby provides validity of prosody as
a cross-linguistic pragmatic tool to express speaker attitude.