What role do contrastive accents play in children’s discourse comprehension? By 6 years of age, children use contrastive accents during online comprehension to predict upcoming referents (Ito et al., 2014; Sekerina & Trueswell, 2012). But, at this age, children’s performance on offline tasks of accent comprehension is poor (e.g., Wells et al., 2004). To examine whether the asymmetry could reflect a developmental stage in which the processing system uses contrastive accents to make local predictions, but fails to incorporate this information into discourse representations, we tested the effect of contrastive accents on children’s memory of the content of a discourse. Five-year-olds heard 12 different stories consecutively, one after another, and the critical words were manipulated so that they were produced either with a contrastive L+H* accent or with a presentational H* accent. We found that children remembered facts about the contrast set better when the target word had an appropriate contrastive accent earlier than when it had a presentational accent. The results show that by 5 years, children are able to use contrastive accents for encoding a discourse, as well as for making local predictions during online comprehension.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the Simons Foundation (SFARI 240290 to J.S.). We would like to thank Scott Fraundorf for providing us with example sound files and Michelle Gernon, Maria Massiani, Katie Lawlor, and Sabrina Ng for assistance with recording stimuli and running participants.
© 2016, Psychonomic Society, Inc.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)