The Affective and Pragmatic Coding of Prosody

  • Klaus R. Scherer
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4274)


Prosody or intonation is a prime carrier of affective information, a function that has often been neglected in speech research. Most work on prosody has been informed by linguistic models of sentence intonation that focus on accent structure and which are based on widely differing theoretical assumptions. Human speech production includes both prosodic coding of emotions, such as anger or happiness, and pragmatic intonations, such as interrogative or affirmative modes, as part of the language codes. The differentiation between these two types of prosody still presents a major problem to speech researchers. It is argued that this distinction becomes more feasible when it is acknowledged that these two types of prosody are differently affected by the so-called “push” and “pull” effects. Push effects, influenced by psychophysiological activation, strongly affect emotional prosody, whereas pull effects, influenced by cultural rules of expression, predominantly affect intonation or pragmatic prosody, even though both processes influence all prosodic production. The push-pull distinction implies that biological marking (push) is directly externalized in motor expression, whereas pull effects (based on socio-cultural norms or desirable, esteemed reference persons) will require the shaping of the expression to conform to these models. Given that the underlying biological processes are likely to be dependent on both the idiosyncratic nature of the individual and the specific nature of the situation, we would expect relatively strong inter-individual differences in the expressive patterns resulting from push effects. This is not the case for pull effects. Here, because of the very nature of the models that pull the expression, we would expect a very high degree of symbolization and conventionalization, in other words comparatively few and small individual differences. With respect to cross-cultural comparison, we would expect the opposite: very few differences between cultures for push effects, large differences for pull effects.


Message Type Emotional Meaning Affective Information Emotional Prosody Pull Effect 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus R. Scherer
    • 1
  1. 1.Swiss Center for Affective SciencesUniversity of GenevaSwitzerland

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