Prosodic disambiguation of wh-indeterminates in Mandarin Chinese


  • Hongchen Wu Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Jiwon Yun Stony Brook University



wh-prosody, indefinite readings, interrogative readings, tonal language, wh-in-situ language


This study focuses on naturally occurring ambiguous utterances like “Zhōngguóduì shuí yě dǎ-bù-guò” in Mandarin to study if/how prosody is used for disambiguation of wh-indeterminates. The results of our production study suggest that wh-indeterminates are disambiguated prosodically. For the wh-region, interrogative readings are distinguished from indefinite readings by having a longer duration and higher maximum pitch. For the pre-wh region, longer duration was observed when the wh-word received interrogative readings and left-dislocated. For the post-wh region, significantly greater pitch excursion was observed for indefinite reading than for interrogative reading. In particular, the novel finding of post-wh pitch compression for wh-interrogatives in Mandarin is in line with what has been attested in other wh-in-situ languages, such as Japanese and Korean, which suggests shared prosodic mechanisms for disambiguating wh-indeterminates in wh-in-situ languages.




How to Cite

Wu, Hongchen, and Jiwon Yun. 2023. “Prosodic Disambiguation of Wh-Indeterminates in Mandarin Chinese”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 8 (1): 5556.