Speech Prosody 2006
Previous observation of spontaneous speech has shown consistent use of pitch accent by speakers to mark the contrastive status of words. To investigate how listeners process accentual prominence marking a contrast, eyemovements were monitored while participants listened to spoken directions and searched for ornaments to decorate holiday trees. Eye movement latencies to the target ornament cells were shorter when the intonation felicitously marked contrast on the color (e.g. First, hang the green drum -> Next, hang the ORANGE drum.) than when it did not (-> orange DRUM). Felicitous pitch accent placement also induced earlier fixations to the target compared to trials that simply lacked the emphatic accent (-> orange drum). In addition, the infelicitous use of the accent on the color modifier (e.g. green drum -> ORANGE ball) led to incorrect initial fixations to the preceding ornament cell (e.g. drum) before the noun itself was processed. These results demonstrate the immediate processing of accentual information on a modifier that leads to a strong expectation about the upcoming discourse entity.
Bibliographic reference. Ito, Kiwako / Speer, Shari R. (2006): "Immediate effects of intonational prominence in a visual search task", In SP-2006, paper 219.