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Dan on rising declaratives in LSA Proceedings

April 19, 2021 Linguistics

Postdoctoral fellow Dan Goodhue gestures with his hands, almost interdigitating his fingers, will standing up and speaking in a sunlit room

Two uses and one meaning for rising declaratives.

Now in the Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America, "A unified account of inquisitive and assertive rising declaratives" by postdoc Dan Goodhue. In the paper Dan first demonstrates that the pragmatic distinction – between rising declaratives used to ask question, like We're leaving? in response to Let's go!, and those used to make assertions, like He's 10 months? in response to How old is this little cutie? – is not systematically marked by a difference in prosody. He then proposes a semantics that is abstract enough to eventuate in both uses, given the context and speaker intentions. 


Previous work on rising declaratives has argued that some have an inquisitive interpretation similar to polar questions, and that this meaning is intonationally distinguished by a steep final rise to a high boundary tone, while others have an assertive interpretation, similar to assertions of falling declaratives, that has a shallower final rise to a lower, high boundary tone. I demonstrate that this strict form-meaning correlation does not hold because there are inquisitive rising declaratives that have a shallow final rise. I argue for a unified theory of rising declaratives with enough interpretational flexibility to explain these crosscutting patterns.