15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Intonation Patterns as a Mark of Sociocultural Identity. Observations from African-American English

Chantal Paboudjian

LPL-CNRS, France

This paper studies the relationship between marked intonational patterns and sociocultural characteristics in the African-American group. The underlying hypotheses are that intonational characteristics are partly conditioned by the sociocultural context, the sociocultural function of intonation being conveyed by the culturally specific emotions and attitudes. It uses TV news interview excerpts of African-Americans males from two social classes (Inner City and Upper Class). Results show that the Inner City group uses an overall higher frequency, less pauses, more F0 variability, a wider F0 range, and a higher upper range. These findings are considered to be both situation- and culture-related. Within the context of the interview they indicate speaker conformity to the expected norms of his group. While Inner City speakers act out their emotions, Upper Class speakers show self-control under identical conditions. Comments on Inner City speakers' speech behavior is related to some specific cultural traits of the group such as creativity and playfulness.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Paboudjian, Chantal (2003): "Intonation patterns as a mark of sociocultural identity. observations from African-American English", In ICPhS-15, 1209-1212.