Native and non-native speaker processing and production of contrastive focus prosody

Chikako Takahashi, Sophia Kao, Hyunah Baek, Alex HL Yeung, Jiwon Hwang, Ellen Broselow


Several studies have found that the presence of L+H* accent on a contrastive adjective assists native-speaking listeners in narrowing the referent of the noun following the adjective (e.g., Ito & Speer 2008, Weber et al. 2006). Our study addresses two questions: whether non-native speakers use prosodic cues in processing, as previous studies have shown for native speakers, and whether there is a relationship between the use of prosodic cues in processing and in production. Twenty-one Mandarin speakers living in the US and twenty-one native English speakers participated in two tasks investigating their processing and production of prosodic cues to contrastive focus. In the processing task, participants responded to the same recorded instruction containing an accented adjective in different contexts, in which the adjective was either contrastive (and therefore appropriately accented) or was repeated and followed by a contrasting noun, making focus accent on the adjective inappropriate. In the production task, participants guided an experimenter to place colored objects on a whiteboard, with some contexts designed to elicit contrastive focus. Overall results indicate that the Mandarin speakers made use of prosodic cues in both processing and production, although their focus prosody production differed from that of native speakers in several respects. Comparison of the results in the two experiments did not find strong correlations between processing and production. These results suggest that there is considerable heterogeneity even among native speakers in the use of prosodic cues in processing and production, and even those who do not use prosodic cues in processing may use them in production.


focus prosody; English; Mandarin; contrastive focus; second language prosody

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Copyright (c) 2018 Chikako Takahashi, Sophia Kao, Hyunah Baek, Alex HL Yeung, Jiwon Hwang, Ellen Broselow

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