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Australian English Rising Intonation: Frequency and Function During Talk-in-Interaction


Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/9357

Australian English Rising Intonation: Frequency and Function During Talk-in-Interaction

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Title: Australian English Rising Intonation: Frequency and Function During Talk-in-Interaction
Author: Buescher, Susan
Advisor(s): Travis, Catherine
Committee Member(s): Smith, Caroline
Axelrod, Melissa
Department: Linguistics
Subject(s): Australian English
conversational analysis
Degree Level: Masters
Abstract: Research on Australian English has shown that in this variety, a high-rising intonation contour typically used with yes/no questions, is also often used with declarative statements (Guy et al. 1986, Fletcher et al., 2002, 2005). Previous researchers, working with data from sociolinguistic interviews have claimed that the Australian high-rising terminal (HRT) pitch contour functions as a floor-holding device to mitigate semantic complexity (Guy et al., 1986, Guy and Vonwiller 1989). However, the notion of ‘semantic complexity’ has not been well-defined, and despite its proposed role in turn-taking, there have been no studies to date which have taken into account the use of the high-rise in spontaneous conversation, where we can best observe the dynamics of turn-taking at work (cf. Ford and Thompson 1996, Sacks et al. 1974). In this thesis I analyze 135 tokens of HRT contours drawn from a corpus of spontaneous Australian English conversation. My results indicate that the use of the HRT is on the rise in comparison with previous studies (cf. Guy et al. 1986) and furthermore, that HRTs are multifunctional in conversation. With respect to the role of the HRT in turn-taking, I find that the majority of the HRTs are not used to project turn completion points, but rather to mark local points of pragmatic completion, which allow the speaker to both clarify important information within the turn in addition to projecting more talk. I argue that the varied discourse functions of the HRT are directly related to its frequency and to its interactional source as question intonation. In conclusion I demonstrate how this work supports a functional view of language change in which frequency and generalization play a large role in the emergence of linguistic structure.
Graduation Date: May 2009
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/9357

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