Prosodic Differences Between English Monolinguals and Spanish-English Bilinguals




Hernandez Semprun, Eduardo E.

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The assumption of an individual that speaks two languages equally is no longer sufficient and thus there are other factors that must be considered. Prosody refers to acoustic-phonetic properties of a word, or statement, over large chunks of speech production. Additionally, it can also serve as a signal, or cue, to the listener from the speaker that may provide aid necessary for language comprehension. For instance, Intonational Phrases Boundaries (IPBs) are pauses in speech used to separate the sentence into different groups of words so the listener can clarify the syntax intended by the speaker. When presented with certain types of syntactic ambiguity, an instance where a sentence may be interpreted in more than one way due to ambiguous sentence structure, the listener is sometimes able use Intonational Phrase Boundaries, or pause during speech, to resolve the ambiguity of a relative clause (Jun, 2003). Similarly, speech rate is another aspect of prosody that can provide the listener with cues such as the speaker’s emotional state such as stress, anger, and exhaustion. The current study determined whether the prosody used by Spanish-English bilinguals varies due to their proficiency in Spanish. The experiment tested whether speakers would produce a pause when prompted to produce syntactically structured high/low attachment sentences as well as evaluating whether bilinguals spoke at a faster rate than monolinguals. All participants partook in a recorded dialogue with the experimenter, a sentence task, three language proficiency assessments, and a language history questionnaire. Overall, there were no real differences between monolingual and bilinguals' speakers in terms of the way they produce pause when presented with sentences of high and low attachment interpretation. Additionally, there were no real differences between languages groups for three out of the four language proficiency assessments that were administered. The DELE assessment did show a difference between language groups with bilingual speakers showing a higher level of proficiency in Spanish than monolingual speakers, which was expected. Lastly, measures of speaking rate did not reveal differences between language groups. Nevertheless, there was a trend where bilinguals tended to produce more pauses when compared to monolingual speakers, which suggested that with fewer limitation and a larger samples size would reveal more significant differences.



Bilingualism, Cognitive psychology


Hernandez Semprun, E. E. (2020). <i>Prosodic differences between English monolinguals and Spanish-English bilinguals</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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