Prosodic focus-marking in Chinese four- and eight-year-olds
Yang, A., & Chen, A.
Prosodic focus-marking in Chinese four- and eight-year-olds. In N. Campbell, D. Gibbon, & D. Hirst (Eds.
), Proceedings of Speech Prosody 2014
This study investigates how Mandarin Chinese speaking
children use prosody to distinguish focus from non-focus, and
focus types differing in size of constituent and contrastivity.
SVO sentences were elicited from four- and eight-year-olds in a
game setting. Sentence-medial verbs were acoustically analysed
for both duration and pitch range in different focus conditions.
The children started to use duration to differentiate focus from
non-focus at the age of four. But their use of pitch range varied
with age and depended on non-focus conditions (pre- vs. postfocus)
and the lexical tones of the verbs. Further, the children in
both age groups used pitch range but not duration to differentiate
narrow focus from broad focus, and they did not differentiate
contrastive narrow focus from non-contrastive narrow focus
using duration or pitch range. The results indicated that Chinese
children acquire the prosodic means (duration and pitch range)
of marking focus in stages, and their acquisition of these two
means appear to be early, compared to children speaking an
intonation language, for example, Dutch.