A prosodic and perceptional study on the Chinese interrogative pronoun “shen me” when indicating inquiry, free reference and negation

Ping Wang, Xiaowen Wang

ABSTRACT: This paper makes a comprehensive investigation and comparison of the prosodic and perceptual performance of the interrogative pronoun “shen me” when indicating question, free reference and negation. The results show that the prosodic performance of the sentence using “shen me” to indicate a question is similar to the prosody of an interrogative sentence; the sentence using “shen me” to indicate free reference has the intonation of a declarative sentence with the focus stress on “dou”; and the sentence using “shen me” to indicate negation has the intonation of an exclamatory sentence with focus stress on “shen me” or the predicative verb “suan”. The results of these perceptual experiments show that the acoustic differences of “shen me” won’t affect the listener’s judgement of the mood of the original sentence, but will affect the judgement of its naturalness to a certain extent. Combining acoustic and perceptual performance, “shen me” indicating a question and free reference carries natural stress, and “shen me” indicating negation carries emphatic stress. The three functions of “shen me” should be discriminated using multi-dimensional standards, that is, both prosody and perception. Additionally, the prosodic standard should include pitch, duration and intensity.