Rising and falling declaratives

I’m familiar with the use of rising declaratives as questions:

e.g. It’s snowing?

There the question is indicated with a rising intonation in speech and a question mark in writing.

But I’m not sure how or in which case we would use falling declaratives as questions.

It’s snowing.

There the question is indicated with a falling intonation in speech and a full stop/period in writing.

Can anyone shed light on this?

A: Can you tell me whether or not…
B: what?
A: It’s snowing.

My two cents, Molly.

Hi Haiho,

That’s a very good example. Probably one of the rare occasions when you should use ‘rising’ or ‘falling’ declaratives.

Thank you, Ralf, and so nice to see you again around here.

Rising declaratives are used frequently in speech, i.e. they are not rare at all, but I don’t know about falling ones.

And could we use either here?

A: Can you tell me whether or not…
B: what?
A: It’s snowing/it’s snowing?

I so, what would the difference in meaning and use be?

But why use a falling declarative there, Haihao? What is its function?

I didn’t doubt that. I said

them.

Since you posted your question in this section, I think we should point to the ‘non-standard’ dimension of declaratives when used as questions. “You smoke?” is certainly not a very elegant or widespread way of asking a question.

If you stretched yourself, you could possibly think of a pragmatic context, but it’s definitely not standard English.

I’ve never heard that “You smoke?”, or similar, even if not what you call elegant, is non-standard. It is conversational, but I wouldn’t call it non-standard, with or without the quotes. Rising declaratives are used when one is skeptical about something and/or where one is partial and informed, i.e. they are not neutral questions and express bias. Also, such question need to be preceded by a relevant context. I would say constraints on use have nothing to do the with standard vs. non-standard argument.

You said “one of the rare occasions when…”. What did you mean by that, Ralf?

Can anyone tell me whether a falling declarative could be used here, for example?

Two friends looking at a mildy drunk regular at the local pub:

A: His drinking has got much worse over the past months.

B: It has? He looks in control to me.
?B: It has. He looks in control to me.


A: His drinking has got much worse over the past months.

B: It has? Hm, I see what you mean.
?B: It has. Hm, I see what you mean.

I don’t see how the falling declarative is a question at all, in those contexts.

I agree that the rising declarative as a question is VERY common.

It’s time? (Can be stated quite mildly - as in, when your boss sticks his head in your door and you both are attending the same meeting.)
He’s here? (Can be stated in a state of surprise.)
You went to the pool? (Can be said in irritation, surprise, or mildness. (Guess what we did today? Eyeing the damp towels on the railing, you reply, “You went to the pool?”))

Yes. I wonder why Ralf thinks such use is rare and/or non-standard.

Me neither.

It seems as if all your endless discussions about ‘standard English’ have been in vain. Or they were simply based on the erroneous assumption that standard English is not “a term generally applied to a form of the English language that is thought to be normative for educated users”, but something else.

Not sure what you mean there, Ralf. Are you saying that rising declaratives are not the norm for educated users?

If that’s what you’re saying, what would be the “standard” equivalent “question” form when one is skeptical about something and/or where one is partial and informed?

In your initial question, no.

Which part of my initial question are you referring to?

And how about “You went to the pool,” in the same context? Would there be a reason to use the falling declarative there?

Can you see a use for a falling declarative question here, Barb?

Pam: The coffee machine’s out of order.

Jan: Oh, it is? OK, I’ll use the one in the foyer.
?Jan: Oh, it is. I’ll use the one in the foyer.