This thesis presents a collection of studies on the perception of
paralinguistic intonational meanings, which stem from three biological
codes, the Frequency Code, the Effort Code and the Production Code.
On the one hand, these studies shown that listeners, regardless of language
background, perceive paralinguistic sound-meaning relations in unknown
languages in a similar way and as the biological codes predict. This
finding is argued to reflect underlying universality in paralinguistic
On the other hand, results bring to light significant differences between
speech communities in interpreting pitch variation in their native
language. First, a speech community may perceive a larger meaning
difference for a given interval of pitch variation than another. Second,
two speech communities may occasionally interpret the relation between
pitch variation and a given meaning in opposite ways. And third, one speech
community may associate pitch variation with a certain meaning where the
other does not. Proposals are made to explain these cross-language differences.
In addition, in the perception of paralinguistic intonational meaning in a
second language, L1 transfer is found to play an important role. At the
same time, L2 learners appear to acquire the paralinguistic interpretations
of the L2 to some extent, and consequently interlanguage behaviour emerges.
The findings call into question theories of intonational meaning that only
advocate universality in the paralinguistic uses of pitch variation. They
lend strong support to a theory that regards the biological codes as a
point of departure and recognises a distinctive language-specific component
in the implementation of these codes.
Presenting interesting data from an exciting perspective, this book takes
positive steps forward in our understanding of the nature of paralinguistic
intonational meaning. It will appeal to prosodic phonologists,
phoneticians, pragmaticians, and psycholinguists working in the field of
second language acquisition.