This paper investigates the role of prosody in deciding the meaning of the so-called indeterminate words (Kuroda 1965) in Korean that can be used as either interrogatives (who/what/...) or indefinites (someone/something/...). While the wide-spread impressionistic observation is that the phonological prominence such as high pitch of the indeterminate word signals an interrogative reading (Choe 1985, Kang 1988, Kim 2000), a production experiment shows that phonological dephrasing after the indeterminate word is the most conspicuous prosodic feature of wh-questions (Jun & Oh 1996). This paper supports the latter conclusion by showing that dephrasing is indeed a decisive factor in perceiving wh-questions, while pitch boosting is not. Rather, the mere prominence of an indeterminate word helps disambiguate the scope configuration of an indefinite reading, giving a bias toward a wide scope interpretation.
Proceedings of the 29th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Jaehoon Choi, E. Alan Hogue, Jeffrey Punske, Deniz Tat, Jessamyn Schertz, and Alex Trueman Table of contents
ISBN 978-1-57473-451-5 library binding
viii + 406 pages
publication date: 2012
published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA