15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003


How Mis-Specified Focus Accents Can Distress Our Brain

Ulrike Toepel, Kai Alter

Max Planck Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Germany

Two experiments were conducted investigating the prosodic properties and online perception of two types of narrow focus accents, namely new information and contrastive accents. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were therefore computed while people listened to dialogues conveying either new information or contrastive accents in appropriate and inappropriate contexts. Prosodic analyses of the material show that these two kinds of accents mainly differ in type (monotonal vs. bitonal). The electrophysiological data provide evidence that the information structure (IS) is processed independently from the correctness of the prosodic pattern. An electrophysiological marker occurs for all focus positions. On the other hand, the perception of the prosodic patterns is modified by task requirements. For the first experiment, this leads to detection of the over- and underspecification of accents, whereas in the second experiment only the detection of underspecification is reflected as a negative waveform in the ERPs.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Toepel, Ulrike / Alter, Kai (2003): "How mis-specified focus accents can distress our brain", In ICPhS-15, 619-622.