Special Session: Sentence-final particles and intonation

Sentence-final particles and intonation: Similarities, interactions, and historical relationships

Session Organizers:

  • James Sneed German (Laboratoire Parole et Langage, UMR 6057, CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université)
  • K. K. Luke (Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies, Nanyang Technological University

It has often been noted that sentence-final discourse particles (SFPs) bear a peculiar relationship to intonation. The types of meaning they carry, for example, overlaps to a large extent with the types of meaning often carried by intonational forms. Typologically, particles tend to be more richly developed in languages with reduced intonational contrasts (i.e., tone languages), suggesting a kind of complementarity or “competition” between the two systems. Some of the claims and findings related to this issue include the following:

  • The pitch shape of SFPs in tone languages is strongly influenced by local intonational patterns rather than purely by lexical tone (Kwok & Luke, 1983; Wu, 2009)
  • SFPs in tone languages have meanings that are closely equivalent to those expressed through intonation in other languages (Yau, 1980; Wakefield, 2009)
  • Some sentence-final intonational patterns in tone languages may actually have
    their origins as SFPs (Cheung, 1986)
  • SFPs recruited from tone languages into intonation languages may preserve their
    tone or at least impose strict requirements on their intonational realization
    (Wong, 2004)
  • Pragmatically or semantically weak SFPs may be recruited for prosodic structural functions in intonation languages (German & Prévot, 2014)

In short, a consensus is emerging across more than 30 years of research that the boundary between SFPs and intonation is sometimes blurry, and that their fates are somehow linked in terms of grammar, history and typology.
This session provides a dedicated venue for researchers with an interest in the question: Is there something special about the relationship between SFPs and intonation? This includes, but is not limited to, the following issues:

  • Systematic overlap in meaning between SFPs and intonation
  • Interactions between SFPs and intonation in the grammar
  • Complementarity between SFPs and intonation (or other systematic
    distributional patterns)
  • Historical relationships between SFPs and intonation
  • SFPs and intonation in contact situations
  • The phonological status of SFPs (Are they tonal? Intonational? Something else?)

While the traditional focus in this area is on final particles, the session is also open to papers on non-final particles that address similar issues.