Cross-Linguistic Perception and Learning of Japanese Lexical Prosody by English Listeners

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Title: Cross-Linguistic Perception and Learning of Japanese Lexical Prosody by English Listeners
Author: Shport, Irina A., 1975-
Abstract: The focus of this dissertation is on how language experience shapes perception of a non-native prosodic contrast. In Tokyo Japanese, fundamental frequency (F0) peak and fall are acoustic cues to lexically contrastive pitch patterns, in which a word may be accented on a particular syllable or unaccented (e.g., tsúru 'a crane', tsurú 'a vine', tsuru 'to fish'). In English, lexical stress is obligatory, and it may be reinforced by F0 in higher-level prosodic groupings. Here I investigate whether English listeners can attend to F0 peaks as well as falls in contrastive pitch patterns and whether training can facilitate the learning of prosodic categories. In a series of categorization and discrimination experiments, where F0 peak and fall were manipulated in one-word utterances, the judgments of prominence by naïve English listeners and native Japanese listeners were compared. The results indicated that while English listeners had phonetic sensitivity to F0 fall in a same-different discrimination task, they could not consistently use the F0 fall to categorize F0 patterns. The effects of F0 peak location and F0 fall on prominence judgments were always larger for Japanese listeners than for English listeners. Furthermore, the interaction between these acoustic cues affected perception of the contrast by Japanese, but not English, listeners. This result suggests that native, but not non-native, listeners have complex and integrated processing of these cues. The training experiment assessed improvement in categorization of Japanese pitch patterns with exposure and feedback. The results suggested that training improved identification of the accented patterns, which also generalized to new words and new contexts. Identification of the unaccented pattern, on the other hand, showed no improvement. Error analysis indicated that native English listeners did not learn to attend specifically to the lack of the F0 fall. To conclude, language experience influences perception of prosodic categories. Although there is some sensitivity to F0 fall in non-native listeners, they rely mostly on F0 peak location in language-like tasks such as categorization of pitch patterns. Learning of new prosodic categories is possible. However, not all categories are learned equally well, which suggests that first language attentional biases affect second language acquisition in the prosodic domain.
Description: xviii, 216 p. : ill. (some col.)
Date: 2011-09

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