Which stress is on response particles? An empirical study
Keywords:response particles, focal stress, contrastive focus, verum accent
Polar response particles (PRPs) have been the subject of a variety of studies in semantics and pragmatics, especially in languages like English and Farsi, where the same particles, āre ‘Yes’ and na ‘No’, can be used with two readings, namely the polarity and the (dis)agreement readings. While PRPs in response to the negative questions result in ambiguity, many scholars mention the important role of the prosodic saliency in the positive answers to the negative questions. This paper is an empirical effort to capture the focal stress on PRPs in Farsi. Two experiments were conducted with respect to the polarity and the bias of the question. The first experiment confirms the earlier studies for the presence of focal stress on the opposi- tion answers to the negative questions, as well as the lack of such stress in response to the positive questions. The second experiment reveals the presence of focal stress in response to both positive and negative questions, when the questions necessarily express bias. I will propose that two types of focal stress, namely Contrastive Focus and Verum Accent, perform two different functions. In the first experiment, the con- trastive focus helps to disambiguate PRPs when required, while the Verum accent in the second study is to indicate the conflict between the addressee’s response and the speaker’s (bias) expectation.
Published by the LSA with permission of the author(s) under a CC BY 4.0 license.