Prosody helps L1 speakers but confuses L2 learners: Influence of L+H* Pitch accent on referential ambiguity resolution

Chie Nakamura, Manabu Arai, Yuki Hirose, Suzanne Flynn

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous studies have reported an effect of prosodic information on initial parsing decision. However, whether prosody functions in the same way in adult second language (L2) sentence processing is not known. In visual world eyetracking experiments, we investigated the influence of contrastive intonation and visual context on processing locally ambiguous sentences with L1 speakers (native English speakers) and L2 learners (Japanese adult learners of English). Our results showed that referential visual context alone helped both L1 speakers and L2 learners to correctly analyze the sentence structure. Interestingly, however, the results also revealed that contrastive intonation accompanied by referential visual context facilitated the correct interpretation with L1 speakers but misled L2 learners “down a garden path”. L2 learners did not interpret the contrastive intonation as a cue that highlights a contrastive set in the visual scene. Instead, they interpreted the contrastive intonation as a simple emphasis and adopted the incorrect syntactic analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-581
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the International Conference on Speech Prosody
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event8th Speech Prosody 2016 - Boston, United States
Duration: 2016 May 312016 Jun 3


  • Contrastive prosody
  • Eye-tracking
  • Garden-path
  • Referential ambiguity resolution
  • Second language acquisition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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