Is there really an asymmetry in the acquisition of the focus-to-accentuation mapping?
Is there really an asymmetry in the acquisition of the focus-to-accentuation mapping? Lingua, 120
, 1926-1939. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2010.02.012.
This article aims to clarify misunderstandings over the relation between production and comprehension in the acquisition of the focus-to-accentuation mapping and shed new light on this issue on the basis of experimental data obtained from Dutch-speaking children. The reanalysis of recent production data on children's and adult's intonational marking of focus reveals that 4- to 5-year-olds can use accentuation to mark non-contrastive narrow focus in question–answer dialogues, although they accent the focal noun slightly less frequently than adults in both sentence-initial and sentence-final positions and tend to accent the noun in sentence-final position to seek confirmation. Regarding comprehension, the processing of accentuation as a cue to non-contrastive narrow focus was examined in question–answer dialogues by means of the RT technique. It was found that 4- to 5-year-olds can process the mapping of non-contrastive narrow focus to accentuation although they need longer processing time than adults. Based on these results, it is argued that children's comprehension is similar to their production at the age of 4 or 5, contra the earlier claim that production precedes comprehension in the acquisition of the focus-to-accentuation mapping. In both production and comprehension, children exhibit similar patterns to adults but are not yet fully adult-like. However, the difference between adults and children is mainly of a gradient nature.