What a difference the prosody makes: The role of prosody in the study of discourse particles

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper discusses the role of prosody in the study of discourse particles by examining the prosodic pattern of well. Intonational features which are investigated in detail include prosodic phrasing and tone unit position, prominence pattern, nuclear tone and association with pauses. Through an in-depth systematic prosodic analysis of well, the present study aims to provide a comprehensive account of the prosodic profile of the particle. The study takes a corpus-informed approach by closely investigating a large number of naturally occurring examples from an intercultural corpus of spoken English annotated according to Brazil's discourse intonation framework (Brazil, 1985, 1997). Results show that the particle well exhibits a high degree of prosodic autonomy by frequently occurring either as a separate tone unit or as the pre-head in a shared tone unit. Its intonational independence is further supported by its likelihood to associate with pauses. As a tonic syllable, well mostly carries falling tone. Some correlations between prosodic features and pragmatic functions of well are also found. Research in the prosody of discourse particles is still in its infancy and a large quantity of prosodic examples are still difficult to come by. In this respect, findings from the present study provide valuable quantitative information as regards the prosodic features of well in one variety of world English which can be readily compared with prior and future results. This in turn may deepen our understanding of the prosodic properties of discourse particles.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhere Prosody Meets Pragmatics
EditorsNicole Dehe, Dagmar Barth-Weingarten, Anne Wichmann
PublisherBrill Rodopi
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781849506311
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameStudies in Pragmatics
ISSN (Print)1750-368X

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language


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