Association of prosodic focal information with only in L1 and L2: Evidence from eye movement in the visual world paradigm
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AbstractThis eye tracking study using the visual world paradigm (Tanenhaus et al., 1995; Altmann & Kamide, 1999) investigated how fast L2 Cantonese-speaking adults and native speakers of English integrated prosodic information into the semantic comprehension of focus in English.
Focus in English is typically realized by assigning an accent to the focal element. In sentences with the focus particle only, different accent placement triggers different sets of alternatives and affects the truth-value of the sentence (Jackendoff, 1972; Rooth, 1992), as in (1). By contrast, the use of prosody to realize focus in tonal languages like Cantonese is highly constrained, as the pitch range is used for lexical contrasts (Chao, 1947).

(1) a. The dinosaur is only carrying the BUCKET. = The only thing the dinosaur is carrying is the bucket.
(object focus; alternatives: other things, e.g. carrying the suitcase)
b. The dinosaur is only CARRYING the bucket. = The only thing the dinosaur is doing with the bucket is carrying it.
(verb focus; alternatives: other actions, e.g. throwing the bucket)

This study aimed to detect the earliest point at which Cantonese-speaking English learners and native speakers of English consider the focus alternatives that arise in the processing of sentences with only. We investigated the online processing of Cantonese-speaking English learners (N=12) and native speakers of English (N=12) as they heard English only¬-sentences, where the accent falls on either the object or the verb (as in (1)). Participants heard a sentence while looking at four pictures (as in Figure 1). The time course of their eye movements was recorded.

The eye gaze patterns of the native speakers of English started to diverge across the conditions as the verb was being heard, whereas those of the Cantonese speakers were similar across conditions. Our results suggest that the English speakers immediately integrated prosodic information into the semantic processing of the only-sentences, a finding similar to Dutch speakers’ processing of sentences with the focus particle alleen ‘only’ and different pitch accents in their native language (Mulders & Szendrői, 2016). Advanced Cantonese-speaking English learners, unlike native speakers of English, were unable to integrate prosodic cues in the interpretation of English focus. The eye-movement data revealed a striking contrast between L2 learners and L1 native controls. While native speakers rapidly integrated prosodic cues in processing focus, the prosody-semantics interface remains a challenge even for advanced L2 learners.
Acceptance Date02/02/2017
All Author(s) ListHaoyan Ge, Xin Kang, Ziyin Mai, Hannah Lam, Stephen Matthews, Virginia Yip
Name of ConferenceExperimental Psycholinguistics Conference 2017
Start Date of Conference28/06/2017
End Date of Conference30/06/2017
Place of ConferenceMenorca
Country/Region of ConferenceSpain
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom
KeywordsFocus interpretation, eye tracking, visual world paradigm, prosody, L1 and L2 processing

Last updated on 2018-18-01 at 08:32