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LINGUIST List 19.2690

Thu Sep 04 2008

Diss: Lang Acq/Phonetics/Psycholing: Good: 'Processing and ...'

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        1.    Erin Good, Processing and Acquisition of Two English Contours

Message 1: Processing and Acquisition of Two English Contours
Date: 04-Sep-2008
From: Erin Good <emgoodemail.arizona.edu>
Subject: Processing and Acquisition of Two English Contours
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Institution: University of Arizona
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Erin Good

Dissertation Title: Processing and Acquisition of Two English Contours

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Diane Ohala
LouAnn Gerken
Natasha Warner

Dissertation Abstract:

The primary claim of this dissertation is that children and adults process
speech in the same manner. This dissertation argues that first language
acquisition and adult language processing are best studied in conjunction.
Both groups are faced with the task when segmenting the speech stream and
assigning meaning the utterances they hear. Differences in the responses of
the two groups are explained with respect to experience and pragmatic
understanding. Three experiments tested how adults and children responded
to a conflict between the lexical and prosodic parse of an utterance.
Prosody can be used to disambiguate ambiguous (fruit~salad) and nonsense
words that can be interpreted either as a list of two items (fruit, salad)
or as a single compound item (fruit-salad). Prosody can also be made to
conflict with the lexical parse of an utterance. When the word cactus is
said with List Prosody two non-words /kæk/ and /tʌs/ result. When the words
nail and key are said with Compound Prosody, the non-word nailkey is
created. All three non-words are possible words of English. The results
show that adults tend to parse utterances based on the lexical content, and
ignore ambiguities created by a conflict between the prosodic and lexical
interpretation of the phrase. In contrast, children tend to respond based
on the prosody. As the children mature the lexical content shows an
increasing influence on their responses. Children use prosody to isolate
new words every day, and so accept the new words created when the lexical
and prosodic meanings conflict. Adults encounter fewer new words day-to-day
and ignore the prosody in favor of the familiar lexical items. When the
same items are tested with abstract shapes rather than representational
images, adults make greater use of prosody. This suggests that visual input
plays a role in spoken word processing. The dissertation proposes a
modified model of spoken word recognition that accounts for the difference
seen between the adults and the children, and for the effect of visual
content. This model integrates phonetic details, prosodic content, lexical
knowledge, visual content, and pragmatic understanding during spoken word

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