What is SPRINT investigating and how?
The focus of SPRINT is intonation, the modulation of voice pitch. Intonation is essential for communication, as it conveys information that helps listeners make inferences about the intent of the speaker.
Despite increased understanding of intonation’s importance, there is little agreement even about essential aspects of its structure and meaning. This is in large part because research has focused either on the form of intonation, often taking a reductive approach to meaning, or has concentrated on meaning but without full scrutiny of form. Crucially, most research has eschewed the study of intonational variability, seeing it as a problem, rather than a natural facet of speech production that needs to be understood and accounted for.
Examining all three aspects in tandem - form, function, and variability - is critical for understanding how intonation is structured and functions in communication.
Considering meaning in the study of intonational form can help delimit intonational categories and uncover the limits of within-category variability.
In turn, a robust understanding of form will lead to insights into intonational pragmatics.