Research Paper

Wh-question intonation in Peninsular Spanish: Multiple contours and the effect of task type


This paper reports on an experimental investigation of wh-question intonation in Peninsular Spanish. Speech data were collected from six León, Spain Peninsular Spanish speakers, and oral production data were elicited under two conditions: a computerized sentence reading task and an information gap task-oriented dialogue. The latter task was an adaptation of the HCRC Map Task method (cf. Anderson et al., 1991) and was designed to elicit multiple wh-question productions in an unscripted and more spontaneous speech style than the standard sentence reading task. Results indicate that four contours exist in the tonal inventory of the six speakers. The two most frequent contours were a final rise contour and a nuclear circumflex contour. Systematic task-based differences were found for four of the six speakers, indicating that sentence reading task data alone may not accurately reflect spontaneous speech tonal patterns (cf. Cruttenden, 2007; but see also Lickley, Schepman, & Ladd, 2005). The experimental findings serve to clarify a number of assumptions about the syntax-prosody interface underlying wh-question utterance signaling; they also have implications for research methods in intonation and task-based variation in laboratory phonology.

How to Cite

Henriksen, N., (2009) “Wh-question intonation in Peninsular Spanish: Multiple contours and the effect of task type”, Journal of Portuguese Linguistics 8(1), p.45-73. doi:







Nicholas C. Henriksen (848 Ballantine Hall, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave Bloomington, IN 47405-7103)



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0


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This article has been peer reviewed.

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