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Teaching Spanish pronunciation
Teaching Spanish pronunciation

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4.2 Interrogative sentences

The intonation contour of questions in Spanish, in general, moves in a wider pitch range than that of declarative sentences. Two main types of questions are distinguished: (i) yes-or-no questions and (ii) question-word questions.

Neutral question-word questions in Spanish have a falling contour similar to that of declarative sentences, with the highest point on the question word. If the question is not completely neutral e.g. there is an added pragmatic meaning such as politeness or insistence, the intonation contour might be different. In English, typically, there is a rising intonation on the question word and a falling intonation at the end of the question.

As for yes-or-no questions in Spanish, unlike in English, intonation may be the only linguistic feature that differentiates them from statements. These questions in most Spanish varieties have a final rise from a low point on the last stressed syllable.

Not only is there considerable variation in intonation across different contexts, but also across different regions of the Spanish-speaking world.

Activity _unit3.5.1 Activity 2

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes.

Visit the webpage Atlas interactivo de la entonación del español (link below). What is the example sentence for the exclamative sentence produced by a speaker from Bogotá?

This tool is very useful if you want to illustrate a teaching point or just check the intonation of different sentence types in different places. You can search by region, sentence type (e.g. declarative sentence, wh-question, etc.) and choose a neutral or marked sentence. atlasentonacion/ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]


Entonación declarativa > De tipo no neutro > Exclamativa

¡Ay! ¡Qué delicioso olor a pan, don José!