Sentence-final particles and intonation: Two forms of the same thing

John Wakefield*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
160 Downloads (Pure)


This paper argues that the linguistic forms of intonation that have scope over the whole sentence are morphemic, and should therefore be classified as suprasegmental sentence particles. In defense of this hypothesis, a range of studies are reviewed which argue that intonation expresses discourse meanings (or has grammatical functions), and that these meanings (or functions) are comparable to those expressed by segmental particles. Some of these are contrastive studies that compare segmental particles to intonation, and some are studies that look at intonational forms directly. The author’s own research, based on translations from native bilinguals, has shown that a number of Cantonese sentence-final particles translate consistently into English as specific forms of intonation. Ladd (2008, p. 5) said that if the functional similarity between particles and intonation can be validated, then this should outweigh what he described as “clear phonetic and syntactic differences” between particles and intonation, and that intonation should then be redefined to include segmental particles. It is argued that there is now enough evidence to validate the claim that particles and intonation have the same meanings/functions. The implication is that the only difference between segmental particles and intonation is their phonological properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-877
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the International Conference on Speech Prosody
Publication statusPublished - May 2016
Event8th Speech Prosody 2016 - Boston, United States
Duration: 31 May 20163 Jun 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • sentence-final particles
  • discourse particles
  • grammatical particles
  • tonal morphemes
  • intonation
  • left periphery


Dive into the research topics of 'Sentence-final particles and intonation: Two forms of the same thing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this