Intonation facilitates contrast resolution: Evidence from Japanese adults and 6-year olds

Kiwako Ito*, Nobuyuki Jincho, Utako Minai, Naoto Yamane, Reiko Mazuka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Two eye-tracking experiments tested how pitch prominence on a prenominal adjective affects contrast resolution in Japanese adult and 6-year old listeners. Participants located two animals in succession on displays with multiple colored animals. In Experiment 1, adults' fixations to the contrastive target (pink cat → GREEN cat) were facilitated by a pitch expansion on the adjective while infelicitous pitch expansion (purple rabbit → ORANGE monkey) led to a garden-path effect, i.e., frequent fixations to the incorrect target (orange rabbit). In 6-year olds, only the facilitation effect surfaced. Hypothesizing that the interval between the two questions may not have given enough time for children to overcome their tendency to perseverate on the first target, Experiment 2 used longer intervals and confirmed a garden-path effect in 6-year olds. These results demonstrate that Japanese 6-year olds can make use of contrast-marking pitch prominence when time allows an establishment of proper discourse representation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-284
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jan
Externally publishedYes


  • Contrast
  • Japanese
  • Prosodic prominence
  • Prosody development
  • Reference resolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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