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Mißverständnispotentiale: Zum Stellenwert der Intonation in diskursiven Settings

Marion Krause

The paper focusses on types of misunderstanding that touch the layer of interpersonal relationships by shaping parameters of the discourse setting, for example the dimension of distance.
After a brief discussion of the term misunderstanding and some problems of the structure misunderstandings show an attempt is made to correlate misunderstandings on the relationship level with the concept of metinformational knowledge (Yokoyama 1986). Generally, information structure is seen as a strong trigger of misunderstanding. As far as Russian is concerned, word order and intonation play an important role in forming information structure. Two approaches to this correlation are reviewed: the phonological model of Russian intonation contrived by Yokoyama (for instance, 1986; 1994; 2003), and the model of syntax-intonation-word order interface developed by a group of slavists at the Leipzig University (Junghanns / Zybatow 1997; Zybatow 1999; Mehlhorn 2003, and others). The final discussion concentrates on some intersections between these approaches – without an effort to downplay the existing differences. One of the intersections is seen in the so-called contrast focus resp. contrast accent. Contrasting means that the partner is assumed to have already activated some information, but not the “right” one. So he / she should be corrected. Both assumptions – about activation (a) not the right (b) information – represent metinformational knowledge in the sense Yokoyama describes it. Highlighting this knowledge by means of contrast accent is important for the further discourse structure. But on the other side, contrasting should be seen as a mechanism capable to damage the partner’s autonomy. That’s why (unintended) use of intonational means can cause misunderstandings on the relationship layer.
It is this mechanism that gives one more argument for working on adaquate intonation from the very beginning of foreign language learning. And to sensitize students for possible contextualizations evoked by intonation.

Linguistische Beiträge zur Slavistik. XII. JungslavistInnen-Treffen Gießen 2003. Hg. Monika Wingender. München: Sagner 2005 (= Specimina Philologiae Slavicae 144), 23–48.