Two studies investigated whether speaking mode influences the way German speakers mark the information status of discourse referents in nuclear position. In Study 1, speakers produced narrations spontaneously on the basis of picture stories in which the information status of referents (new, accessible and given) was systematically varied. In Study 2, speakers saw the same pictures, but this time accompanied by text to be read out. Clear differences were found depending on speaking mode: In spontaneous speech, speakers always accented new referents. They did not use different pitch accent types to differentiate between new and accessible referents, nor did they always deaccent given referents. In addition, speakers often made use of low pitch accents in combination with high boundary tones to indicate continuity. In contrast to this, read speech was characterized by low boundary tones, consistent deaccentuation of given referents and the use of H+L* and H+!H* accents, for both new and accessible referents. The results are discussed in terms of the function of intonational features in communication. It is argued that reading intonation is not comparable to intonation in spontaneous speech, and that this has important consequences also for our choice of methodology in child language acquisition research.