Intonational marking of focus in different word orders in German children

Sauermann, A., Höhle, B., Chen, A., & Järvikivi, J. (2011). Intonational marking of focus in different word orders in German children. In M. B. Washburn, K. McKinney-Bock, E. Varis, & A. Sawyer (Eds.), Proceedings of the 28th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (pp. 313-322). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
The use of word order and intonation to mark focus in child speech has received some attention. However, past work usually examined each device separately or only compared the realizations of focused vs. non-focused constituents. This paper investigates the interaction between word order and intonation in the marking of different focus types in 4- to 5-year old German-speaking children and an adult control group. An answer-reconstruction task was used to elicit syntactic (word order) and intonational focus marking of subject and objects (locus of focus) in three focus types (broad, narrow, and contrastive focus). The results indicate that both children and adults used intonation to distinguish broad from contrastive focus but they differed in the marking of narrow focus. Further, both groups preferred intonation to word order as device for focus marking. But children showed an early sensitivity for the impact of focus type and focus location on word order variation and on phonetic means to mark focus.
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