We are happy to announce a talk by Lennart Fritzsche (Frankfurt) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talk will take place on campus in IG 4.301.
If you wish to participate virtually via Zoom, please contact Lennart Fritzsche for the link.

Date: January 25, 2024

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct

Title: Ja or Jaaaaa? How Prosodic Modulations Influence the Scalar Interpretation of Adjectives

The traditional view that language is arbitrary (Hockett, 1960) has become increasingly challenged recently (e.g., Blasi et al., 2016): Iconic mappings between form and meaning are found throughout language, as for example in prosodic modulations of length such as looooong (Fuchs et al., 2019). 

In German, it is possible to modulate the length of response particles in responses to polar questions containing a gradable adjective, cf. (1). 

(1)   A: Findest du Berlin schön? (‘Do you find Berlin pretty?’)
       B: Jaaaaa. (Lengthened German Ja ‘Yes’) 

Empirical work on whether these instances of particle lengthening are iconic is lacking. The data presented in this work suggests that this is the case: Prosodic modulations allow access to semantic scales and manipulate the degree to which a certain property has to hold for a given individual. For example, in (1), the lengthening of the response particle results in a boost of the degree to which the hearer thinks Berlin is pretty as compared to an ordinary answer such as Ja.