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Pitch accent type affects stress perception in German : Evidence from infant and adult speech processing

Pitch accent type affects stress perception in German : Evidence from infant and adult speech processing

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ZAHNER, Katharina, 2019. Pitch accent type affects stress perception in German : Evidence from infant and adult speech processing [Dissertation]. Konstanz: University of Konstanz

@phdthesis{Zahner2019Pitch-49080, title={Pitch accent type affects stress perception in German : Evidence from infant and adult speech processing}, year={2019}, author={Zahner, Katharina}, address={Konstanz}, school={Universität Konstanz} }

eng Pitch accent type affects stress perception in German : Evidence from infant and adult speech processing terms-of-use Zahner, Katharina 2020-03-16T14:48:20Z 2019 2020-03-16T14:48:20Z This thesis focuses on explicit segmentation in infants and lexical activation in adults – processes of word recognition that are crucial for the respective target group (e.g., Cutler, 2012). Specifically, we examine how pitch accent type affects stress processing in segmentation and lexical activation. Pitch accents generally mark words and stressed syllables therein as prominent at the utterance level, mostly for information-structural purposes (e.g., Ladd, 2008). Broadly speaking, pitch accents differ in where – in regard to the stressed syllable – the fundamental frequency (f0) peak is realized, i.e., the f0 peak can precede or follow the stressed syllable, or it can be realized on the stressed syllable. Consequently, utterance-level intonation guides the status of f0 on a stressed syllable (either high-pitched or low-pitched, or rising or falling) and renders f0 an unreliable cue to the position of lexical stress for listeners.<br />Using the Head-Turn Preference Paradigm with infants and the Visual-World Eye-Tracking Paradigm with adults, this thesis studied how (phonological) alignment differences in different pitch accent types affect lexical stress processing in German infants and adults. Our experimental results showed that both German infants and adults were influenced by the position of the f0 peak in regard to the stressed syllable when processing lexical stress. In particular, German infants extracted trochaic units only when the stressed syllable was high-pitched. When naturally produced, infants furthermore mistook high-pitched unstressed syllables as word onset cues; the isolated f0 cue (resynthesized), however, did not lead to mis-segmentation. German adults, in turn, were influenced by different pitch accent types, such that f0 peaks on unstressed initial syllables led to the temporary activation of stress competitors with initial stress. To account for the observed effects of pitch accent type on stress-based segmentation and lexical activation, we proposed two underlying mechanisms in the thesis: Option 1 is that high-pitched syllables stand out perceptually (salience account). Option 2 is that listeners learned to associate high-pitched sylla- bles with metrical stress, because of a frequent occurrence of H*-accents in the ambient language (frequency account). In an exposure-test paradigm (exposure phase with low-pitched accents and subsequent eye-tracking study) with German adults, we put the frequency account to test and examined whether the weighting of the f0 cue for stress processing is affected by the frequency of occurrence of high- and low-pitched stressed syllables in the immediate input. Results showed a reduced competitor activation, indicating that the frequency with which different pitch accent types occur in spoken communication modulate the cue weights for acoustic cues to stress, here high f0.<br />In conclusion, this dissertation is relevant to both psycholinguistic research and the interface between phonetics and phonology. From a psycholinguistic perspective, it contributes towards unravelling the influence of intonation on lexical processing by showing that high f0 guides the perception of lexical stress in infant metrical segmentation and adult lexical activation. The perception of metrical strength relations in a word can be shifted if the f0 peak and the metrically stressed syllable are not aligned. Hence, pitch accent type influences lexical processing in intonation languages, in which pitch is not contrastively used. Furthermore, the manipulation of the occurrence frequency of different pitch accent types, in particular, allows for important theoretical conclusions at the phonetics-phonology interface. In this regard, our findings speak in favour of a phonological basis of the association between high f0 and lexical stress. More precisely, we argue that it is not (only) the phonetic cues (here the acoustic cue high f0) that guide the perception of lexical stress. Rather, the learned association between high f0 and lexical stress gen- erates expectations on which cues make a syllable appear to be stressed. Zahner, Katharina

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