Cantonese speakers' memory for English sentences with prosodic cues

  • Pennington M
  • Ellis N
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JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact The nature and functions of prosody are reviewed, and English and Cantonese are contrasted for this feature of language, as background for two experimental studies. In the experiments, 30 Cantonese speakers with advanced competence in English were tested for their recognition memory of English sentences in which prosody cued meaning contrasts in otherwise identical sentence pairs. The Cantonese speakers' memory for the English sentences based on prosodic information was generally poor, both when the contrastive focus was implicit in the experimen-tal task (Experiment 1) and when it was the explicit focus of attention (Experiment 2). The only significant improvement in performance after participants' attention was explicitly di-rected to intonation was on sentences in which prosody cued a marked informational focus ("contrastive stress") versus an unmarked one ("neutral" sentence intonation). The investiga-tion leads to suggestions for raising learners' awareness of prosody in a second language.

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  • Martha C. Pennington

  • Nick C. Ellis

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