University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


The meaningful contribution of terminal rising pitch has received a fair amount of scholarly attention, discussed for its ability to create questioning force on declarative syntax (Gunlogson, 2008), as part of listing intonation (Ladd, 2008), as well as indicating discourse relationships (Jasinskaja, 2010; Nilsenová, 2006; Pierrehumbert & Hirschberg, 1990). A common interpretation of the meaning of rising pitch is that it conveys incompleteness, more-to-come, continuation or is ‘forward-looking’ (Bolinger, 1989; Hirschberg, 2008; Pierrehumbert & Hirschberg, 1990). Recent experimental results contribute to this discussion, showing a rise can bias towards the coordinating interpretation of a coordination/subordination discourse ambiguity (Tyler, 2012). Because both interpretations of the ambiguity involve continuation, the rise is signaling not just that you continue but how you continue. In this paper, I will briefly present these results and then integrate them into a unified account of the contribution of rising pitch, which I see as a signal of incompleteness with respect to the current hierarchical level of the discourse.