Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


Interpretation of Emotional Interjections in Swedish: The Importance of Prosody and Lexical Information

Åsa Abelin (Dept of Linguistics, Gothenburg University)

A special case of non-arbitrariness in language is emotional prosody, which is always relevant in interjections. The non-arbitrary relation between prosodic expression and meaning of emotional interjections is mainly indexical; the emotional prosodic expression is caused by a bodily or mental reaction. However, the emotional prosody of interjections could also be modified by language convention. The general question addressed is whether emotional prosody of interjections is specified in the lexical unit or if it is added by processes at a higher cognitive level, and if this differs between high-lexical interjections and low lexical interjections. High-lexical interjections have a more defined semantic content, e.g. "hurrah" and low-lexical interjections are ambiguous, e.g. "oh".

Lexical decision experiments were performed with high-lexical interjections and low lexical interjections having matching or mismatching prosody, in order to see the importance of matching emotional prosody in ambiguous and non-ambiguous interjections. The stimuli words used in the experiments were analyzed acoustically with regard to F0-variation and duration, in order to pinpoint whether differing reaction times were dependent on acoustic variables or whether they depend on the mismatch condition as such.