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The purpose shapes the vocative: Prosodic realisation of Colombian Spanish vocatives

  • Clara Huttenlauch (a1) (a2), Ingo Feldhausen (a3) and Bettina Braun (a4)
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.


The question of whether intonation contours directly signal meaning is an old one. We revisit this question using vocatives in Colombian Spanish (Bogotá). We recorded speakers' productions in three pragmatic conditions – greeting, confirmation-seeking, and reprimand – and compared proper names (vocatives) to situation-specific one-word utterances, such as ¡Hola! ‘Hello’ (non-vocatives). Intonational analyses showed no direct one-to-one correspondence between the pragmatic conditions and intonation contours: (a) for vocatives, e.g. a rising–falling contour occurred in both greetings and reprimands; and (b) for non-vocatives, e.g. a step-down contour (a.k.a. calling contour) occurred in both greeting and confirmation-seeking conditions. Looking beyond intonation to consider other phonetic variables – spectral tilt, duration, alignment of tonal targets, f0-range, f0-slope – the results showed that the intonation contours that occurred in more than one pragmatic condition differed in phonetic realisation, e.g. rising–falling vocatives showed differences in f0-range of the rise and spectral tilt. However, the corresponding non-vocatives did not show the same differences. Furthermore, vocatives in greeting contexts were realised differently from non-vocatives in greeting contexts. In sum, the pragmatic condition affects the prosodic realisation of (non-)vocatives, but the relationship is complex. The results are discussed in the light of prosodic constructions, leading to the conclusion that the prosodic realisation of vocatives and non-vocatives in Bogotá Colombian Spanish cannot be easily modelled by prosodic constructions.

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