Intonational realisation of topic and focus by Dutch-acquiring 4- to 5-year-olds

Chen, A. (2007). Intonational realisation of topic and focus by Dutch-acquiring 4- to 5-year-olds. In J. Trouvain, & W. J. Barry (Eds.), Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2007) (pp. 1553-1556). Dudweiler: Pirott.
This study examined how Dutch-acquiring 4- to 5-year-olds use different pitch accent types and deaccentuation to mark topic and focus at the sentence level and how they differ from adults. The topic and focus were non-contrastive and realised as full noun phrases. It was found that children realise topic and focus similarly frequently with H*L, whereas adults use H*L noticeably more frequently in focus than in topic in sentence-initial position and nearly only in focus in sentence-final position. Further, children frequently realise the topic with an accent, whereas adults mostly deaccent the sentence-final topic and use H*L and H* to realise the sentence-initial topic because of rhythmic motivation. These results show that 4- and 5-year-olds have not acquired H*L as the typical focus accent and deaccentuation as the typical topic intonation yet. Possibly, frequent use of H*L in sentence-initial topic in adult Dutch has made it difficult to extract the functions of H*L and deaccentuation from the input.
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