L2 adaptation to uninformative prosody during structural analysis: A visual world study


This study investigated how L2 learners use prosodic boundary information in processing globally ambiguous sentences such as The boy will see the tiger with the binoculars. It was also examined whether structural analysis in L2 is affected when prosodic boundary information does not align with syntax. We conducted two visual-world eye-tracking experiments, in which filler items had either informative prosody (prosody-syntax aligned) or uninformative prosody (prosody-syntax not aligned). The results showed that L2 learners use prosodic boundary information to guide early parsing decisions, but at a delayed time course compared to native speakers. The results also showed that L2 learners are sensitive to prosody-syntax mapping and use prosodic information less when prosody is uninformative. The current study provides evidence that L2 learners generate expectations for future input based on prosody and visual information. We further suggest that L2 learners seem to keep track of speaker-specific factors, such as how informative the speaker’s prosodic cues are, and adjust the degree to which they use prosody to guide structure building processes.

BUCLD 43: Proceedings of the 43rd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Medford, MA: Cascadilla Press