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Academic Paper


Title: Interpretation of contrastive pitch accent in six- to eleven-year-old English-speaking children (and adults)
Author: Kiwako Ito
Institution: Ohio State University
Author: Sarah A. Bibyk
Institution: University of Rochester
Author: Laura Wagner
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://faculty.psy.ohio-state.edu/wagner/
Institution: Ohio State University
Author: Shari R. Speer
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.ling.ohio-state.edu/~speer
Institution: Ohio State University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Phonetics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Both off-line and on-line comprehension studies suggest not only toddlers and preschoolers, but also older school-age children have trouble interpreting contrast-marking pitch prominence. To test whether children achieve adult-like proficiency in processing contrast-marking prosody during school years, an eye-tracking experiment examined the effect of accent on referential resolution in six- to eleven-year-old children and adults. In all age groups, a prominent accent facilitated the detection of a target in contrastive discourse sequences (pink cat→ cat), whereas it led to a garden path in non-contrastive sequences (pink rabbit→ monkey: the initial fixations were on rabbits). While the data indicate that children as young as age six immediately interpret contrastive accent, even the oldest child group showed delayed fixations compared to adults. We argue that the children's slower recovery from the garden path reflects the gradual development in cognitive flexibility that matures independently of general oculomotor control.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 41, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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