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Title:A Study of the Use of English Sentence Stress for the Comprehension of Meaning by Adult Second Language Learners (Psycholinguistics, Arabic, Spanish, Acquisition)
Author(s):Works, Nancy Mckinney
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Language, Linguistics
Abstract:Research interest in the prosody of English has increased in recent years and has resulted in detailed descriptions of some of the prosodic features of the language. There is also now evidence that the prosodic features are vital to communication. One of these features, linguistic stress, is believed to mark the most important information in a sentence, whether it is new information, a crucial contrast, or a discourse control signal to the listener. At this time, however, little is known about the use of spoken English sentential stress by second language learners.
The present research investigated three hypotheses concerning the use of main sentence stress by adults learning English. Two groups of subjects, 40 monolingual speakers of Arabic, a stress-timed language as is English, and 39 monolingual speakers of Spanish, a syllable-timed language, were tested on their ability to: recognize main sentence stress in spoken English sentences, to comprehend spoken English sentences whose meaning is dependent on recognition of main sentence stress, and to comprehend spoken English overall. The three hypotheses all predicted that subjects from the stress-timed language, Arabic, would perform better on the three tests for this study than subjects from the syllable-timed language, Spanish.
Results showed that there were no significant differences between the two groups on a test of recognition of main sentence stress. Indications are that this recognition is universal. The Arabic speaking subjects, however, performed significantly better on a test of sentence comprehension based on recognition of main sentence stress than did the Spanish speakers. A multiple regression analysis showed that language background had a significant effect while years of English studied did not. Results of a TOEFL overall listening comprehension test were somewhat inconclusive. Language background had a marginally significant effect on overall listening comprehension with Spanish speakers performing better than Arabic speakers. It appears that syntactic, semantic, and contextual cues to meaning overrode the prosodic feature main sentence stress for overall listening comprehension.
Issue Date:1985
Description:167 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1985.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8600349
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1985

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