14-15 May 2020 Non-canonical Questions at the Syntax-Prosody Interface Workshop to be held in Paris


Organizing committee: Agnès Celle, Université de Paris & Maud Pélissier, University of Agder

Call for Papers

This workshop aims to bring together linguists working on non-canonical questions at the syntax-pragmatics-prosody interface. Studies that provide experimental evidence of emotions in non-canonical questions as well as typological approaches to the prosodic encoding of information structure are particularly welcome.


Scope and Topics

Unforeseen situations violate the speaker’s expectations and generate a conflict between her epistemic state and the new information at hand. Questions asked in reaction to those situations serve a responsive function – they question the reality status and the reliability of unexpected information. In other words, they activate modal and evidential reasoning. Although surprise is generally reported to be expressed through exclamatives (Rett and Murray 2013), in dialogue surprise reactions were found to be mostly conveyed by interrogatives in English, both in direct and indirect speech acts (Celle et al. 2019, Celle 2018). In French, recent studies have identified several constructions that conventionally express surprise, such as questions with a right dislocation (C’est quoi ce truc?) (Dekhissi 2018), qu’est-ce que-questions meaning ‘how come’ (qu’est-ce que tu rigoles?) (Dekhissi 2016) and more generally questions that initiate an “attributional search” such as comment-questions with a reason reading (Comment Max peut-il lire le courrier de Paul?) (Fleury and Tovena 2018b; 2018a). These are not information-seeking questions, but a type of non-canonical questions. How these questions relate to rhetorical questions and to exclamatory questions remains to be explored. One of the goals of the workshop is to determine whether prosody can help distinguish between surprise questions, rhetorical questions and exclamation.

Previous studies have shown that there is no one-to-one correspondence between the questioning speech act and a rising intonation in English and French (Delais-Roussarie and Herment 2018). The intonational contour results from a combination of factors, among which speaker’s attitude. This attitude being influenced by the way the situation lives up to their expectations, surprise can be predicted to play a key role in the prosody of questions. Furthermore, Delais-Roussarie and Herment (2018) argue that in addition to the final intonational contour, other factors should be taken into account to describe prosody in specific speech acts, such as pitch accent placement and prenuclear contour. Recent experimental studies on German further suggest that information-seeking questions and rhetorical questions significantly differ with respect to prosody (Wochner et al. 2015). Interestingly, rhetorical questions exhibit characteristics that are typically associated with the expression of surprise, such as lengthening and a high proportion of L*+H nuclear accents (Malisz et al. 2018).

This workshop will be aimed at investigating the relationship between the prosodic and syntactic features of non-canonical questions, especially those expressing surprise in comparison with rhetorical questions and exclamation. We invite submissions addressing this question in French, English, German, Finno-Ugric languages as well as in other typologically different languages, but also more generally the interface between prosody and syntax in expressive and questioning speech acts.



This workshop is organized as part of the Programme Hubert Curien Parrot n°42231NG coordinated by Agnès Celle and Anu Treikelder (U. of Tartu) and Programme Hubert Curien Procope n°42412PC coordinated by Agnès Celle and Andreas Trotzke (U. of Konstanz) on surprise questions from a comparative perspective.


Submission guidelines and important dates


Abstract proposals: 2-page abstracts including references for 30 minute presentations

Deadline for abstract submission: January 15

Submission webpage : https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=nonquespi2020

Notification of acceptance or refusal: February 15

Workshop website: https://ncq2020.wixsite.com/website

Contact: ncq2020@gmail.com




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