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Intonational Meaning in English Discourse: a Study of Non-Native Speakers

Ann Wennerstrom

This paper reports the findings of a study on the intonation of second language speakers of English from three language groups:   Spanish, Japanese, and Thai.  the investigation focused on how non-native speakers use intonation to signal meaning in the structure of their discourse.   Thirty adult speakers of English as a second language at the intermediate level and ten native speaker controls were tape recorded in both oral reading and free speech tasks.   The speech data were analyzed on a Visipitch machine to measure how pitch and intensity were used contrastively to show relationships in discourse.  Following a model of intonational meaning developed by Pierrehumbert and Hirschberg (1990), pitch accents, phrase accents, boundary tones, and paratones (Yule 1980) were measured.   The study revealed that while the native speakers made significant use of pitch contreasts to signal meaning on the items measured, the non-native speakers did not consistently use pitch to signal meaningful contrasts in many of the same environments.
Wennerstrom, A. 1994 Intonational Meaning in English Discourse: a Study of Non-Native Speakers. In Applied Linguistics 15/4: 399-420.

Key points relevant to the study of filled pauses


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