Rising intonation and uncertainty

Erin Zaroukian


Uncertain declaratives present several problems for analyses of rising intonation, among which is why, though maybe avoids speaker commitment as does rising intonation in (1a,b), (1c) without rising intonation is odd.

(1) A: What’s John’s favorite color?
B: (a) Blue? / (b) Maybe blue? / (c) #Maybe blue.

I propose that for rising declaratives, discourse context update is dependent on corroboration by some unspecified source. And while maybe also allows the speaker to avoid committing, it does so differently from rising intonation (suggesting possibility, not requiring corroboration), and when the two co-occur, maybe acts in concord with the intonation.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/exabs.v0i0.563