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Human-Robot Interaction Lab Sønderborg

Question-Word Questions: More Examples

May I ask you where you know robots from?

In this section, we compare the questions from the overview section (Overview: Intonation in different question types) to the same questions spoken by a speaker of the same language but with a different variety.


The Copenhagen speaker in (42), which is repeated here, uses the Copenhagen basic accent group pattern: a low or falling tone on the accented syllable – followed by a much higher tone on the next unaccented syllable – followed by gradually falling tones on the rest of the unaccented syllables in the accent group.

(42)       Copenhagen Danish


The Funen speaker of the question in example (42-1) uses a rising tone on the accented syllables. The rising accent melody often stretches to also encompass the first unaccented syllable; after that syllable, the tone falls again on any other unaccented syllables in the accent group. The exception is the accent group hvor du, in which there only is one following unaccented syllable. The single unaccented syllable in this accent group then has a lower tone already.

(42-1)   Funen Danish



The South Norwegian utterances in (43) has the distribution of accented syllables that you could expect: one on SPØR (“ask”), one on KJENNskab (“knowledge”) and one on RObote, which is the topic of the conversation at this point in the interview.

(43)       South Norwegian

The Southeast Norwegian speaker in (43-1) skips the preface of a careful question and asks a straightforward question-word question instead. Intonationally, this is an untypical utterance because it only comprises one single accent group. Often, question words like hvordan (“how”) get an accent; but not in this utterance. This means that the whole utterance beginning, hvordan har du fått (“how did you get”), does not conatain any accented syllable. Unaccented syllables at the beginning of utterances do not belong to any accent group and do not participate in conveying any accent melody (see Accent groups = chunks of speech formed by accent melodies).

The first and only accented syllable in the utterance is found in the word KJENNskap (“knowledge”), which has an accent 2 fall to a low tone on the accented syllable KJENN-. The low tone is continued through the accent group until the last syllable, which marks the end of the accent group by rising to a high tone. As in (43), it roboter could theoretically get an accent of its own, but in (43-1) it is just continues the long stretch of low tones characterizing the middle of the accent 2 melody. On the last syllable (robo)-ter the accent melody ends by a rise to a very high big accent 2 tone. Thus, roboter is tonally incoropated with KJENNskap til into one, long accent group.

(43-1)   Southeast Norwegian



In all Swedish utterances, the strongest accent is the big accent one on the verbal particle TILL in the expression känna till (“know of”). In contrast to Norwegian, this is not the only big accent in the Swedish utterances. A big accent is therefore also not always restricted to the last accent group of an utterance.

The Scania Swedish speakers also use both big and small accents, but now it is a difference in degree, and not in melody: The first verb FÅR (“may”) and the last noun RObotar (“robots”) have a small accent 1 melody in both utterances, which means a small fall to a low target tone on the accented syllable. The verbal particle TILL has a big accent one melody, with a higher starting point and a bigger fall to the low target tone. The verb KOMmer (“come”) has a big accent 2, which means a slow rise to a high target tone on the accented syllable.

(44)       Central Swedish


(44-1)   Scania Swedish


Last Updated 09.02.2023