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Title:The processing and production of prosodic focus in French by native and non-native speakers
Author(s):Namjoshi, Jui
Director of Research:Tremblay, Annie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Fagyal, Zsuzsanna
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Watson, Duane; Brown-Schmidt, Sarah
Department / Program:French and Italian
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Second Language Acquisition
Abstract:The present research examines whether adults who learn a second language (L2) mainly in a classroom setting can develop linguistic representations that are qualitatively similar to those of native speakers for linguistic content that is not explicitly taught in the classroom. It does so by focusing on the domains of speech processing and speech production in L2 learners. Specifically, this dissertation investigates the processing and production of prosodic focus, a characteristic of the French language not taught in the classroom. This research examines whether French learners can, in the absence of explicit instruction on prosodic focus, learn the correct mapping between the form of prosodic focus in French and what it entails at the discourse level, both in speech processing and in speech production. Prosodic focus has similar discourse entailments in both French and English. However, French and English differ in both the extent to which focus is expressed only phonologically and how prosodic focus is realized. The specific nature of the similarities and differences between French and English prosody creates an interesting learning problem for L2 learners, who must learn both the phonetic and phonological characteristics of focus in French and use this information to infer the status of specific referents in the discourse. Experiments 1a and 1b of this dissertation use the visual-world eye-tracking paradigm to examine whether native French speakers and English-speaking L2 learners of French used prosodic focus (in the form of pitch accents) in online sentence interpretation. Experiment 1a revealed that native speakers’ interpretation of sentences in French was constrained by whether or not the referent in the sentence was prosodically focused. Experiment 1b showed that L2 learners were sensitive to the presence of prosodic focus, but unlike native speakers, their interpretation of sentences was not constrained by this information. Thus, despite similarities between the discourse implications of prosodic focus in the native and target languages, L2 learners appeared not to map the form of prosodic focus in French to its discourse implications. Experiments 2a and 2b are interactive production experiments similar to those used in the Visual-World Eye-Tracking paradigm in Experiments 1a and 1b. They examine whether native French speakers and English-speaking L2 learners produce prosodic focus in the absence of syntactic cues to focus. The results show that neither group of participants produced prosodic focus where it was appropriate. Although questions are raised as to whether L2 learners can produce prosodic focus when the discourse context allows it, ultimately the results of both groups are attributed to potential methodological limitations of the production task. These results suggest that while the L2 learners in this study may be sensitive to prosodic focus, their mapping of prosodic focus to its meaning in the discourse may not be complete at this point in their linguistic development, suggesting that L2 learners’ representations may be qualitatively different from those of native speakers.
Issue Date:2015-11-17
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Jui Namjoshi
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-03-02
Date Deposited:2015-12

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