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Salffner, Sophie (2017) 'West African languages enrich the frequency code: Multi-functional pitch and multi-dimensional prosody in Ikaan polar questions.' Laboratory Phonology, 8 (1). pp. 1-44.

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Cross-linguistically, statements tend to be pronounced with low or falling pitch and questions with high or rising pitch, a form–meaning pairing which has been attributed to the frequency code (Ohala, 1984). In many West African languages, however, questions are marked with a ‘lax’ prosody comprising falling intonation, low tones, lengthening, breathy termination, and open vowels (Rialland, 2007). This paper presents prosody findings from Ikaan (Niger-Congo; ISO 639-3: kcf) and proposes a re-analysis of the West African lax question prosody to integrate it with the frequency code model. The paper shows that the pragmatic functions of statement and polar question are expressed prosodically in Ikaan. Audio recordings of statements and morphosyntactically identical polar questions by six speakers were annotated segmentally, tonally, and for the presence of prosodic question markers. Speakers mark questions by using higher onset pitch, wider drops to final low tones, final breathy voice and voicelessness, final vowel lengthening, vowel insertion, and increased intensity. Breathiness may further contrast with creaky voice and glottal stops in statements. Phonation mode, and the accompanying vowel lengthening and insertion, are argued to indicate friendliness and appeals for collaboration, linking phonation mode to similar functions of higher pitch in the frequency code.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Original recordings and the transcriptions of all data presented in the paper are accessible from the archived deposits in Salffner (2010a, 2014). The article is openly accessible from the journal website and can be downloaded from
Keywords: question prosody, tone languages, Ikaan, Niger-Congo languages, phonation mode, frequency code, language documentation and description
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of Linguistics
Administration and Professional Services > Library and Information Services
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
ISSN: 18686354
Copyright Statement: © 2017 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2018 14:05
Related URLs: http://www.jour ... 5334/labphon.94 (Publisher URL)

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