The expression of politeness and pitch height in Russian imperatives

Aleksandra Chikulaeva, Mariapaola D’Imperio

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Based on the theory biological codes [1], the Frequency code [2] claims that pitch height is a universal correlate of politeness. Other frameworks, while taking a pragmatic approach, [3], [4] claim that high pitch can be employed in both polite and impolite contours and argue for the importance of socio-pragmatic variables in the expression of politeness. Work on Russian prosody suggests though that the degree of politeness decreases with higher f0 of falling contours in imperatives [5], [6], [7]. The present study investigates the relationship between f0 height, pitch accent type and conveyed attitude in Russian imperatives when social distance (power relationship) is manipulated. A discourse completion task, in which both speakers’ power and attitude were manipulated, was carried out to test our hypotheses. Our results show that higher f0 values are found for both rising and falling polite imperatives, except for downstepped pitch accents. Moreover, speakers’ social power did not show a significant effect. Our findings underline the need to take into account pitch accent type and speech act to predict fundamental frequency values in polite contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-442
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the International Conference on Speech Prosody
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event9th International Conference on Speech Prosody, SP 2018 - Poznan, Poland
Duration: Jun 13 2018Jun 16 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Frequency code
  • Intonation
  • Paralinguistic meaning
  • Politeness
  • Prosody
  • Russian
  • Social distance


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