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Academic Paper

Title: Is Discourse Intonation Applicable to German? Evidence from politicians' speeches in the Bundestag and from a television news broadcast
Author: Richard M Stibbard
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: The British School of Phonetics
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Phonology
Subject Language: German
Abstract: This study aims to test whether German intonation as manifested in two spoken corpora, one of politicians’ speeches, the other of a television news broadcast, can be explained in terms of the forms and functions posited for English by the Discourse Intonation (DI) model (Brazil, 1997)./L//L/The frequency of occurrences of tonal patterns in the German data presents problems in interpreting the DI functions of “oblique” versus “direct” orientation and “dominance”. In the DI description of English intonation, the occurrence of referring “R” tones (manifested as fall-rises or rises) is an unambiguous indication that the speaker is adopting a style of speaking which takes into account the hearer’s potential knowledge of the subject, while level “o” tones indicate equally unambiguously that a style is being adopted which ignores such potential shared knowledge. In the German data, however, there are very high proportions of both rising and level tones co-occurring in the same stretches of discourse./L//L/The hypothesis that rising tones in German equate in function to English “dominant” r+ tones and fall-rises to “non-dominant” English r tones is also problematic in view of the very high proportion of rising tones to fall-rises. Contradicting the view that politicians in general might adopt a particularly dominant style of rhetoric, a comparison with the English politicians’ speeches showed no tonal indications of “dominance” in that corpus. However, there exists the possibility that the style of speeches recorded in the Bundestag might be more dominant than those recorded in the House of Commons. The German News corpus also shows patterns similar to that of the Bundestag data, however, indicating that the pattern is not limited to the genre of political speeches. It is further argued that the DI notion of “referring” to common ground and “proclaiming” new information is difficult to test on data without risking circular interpretation.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: International Review of Applied Linguistics. 38 125-145
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