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Perception of Paralinguistic Intonational Meaning in a Second Language


  • I would like to thank Barbara Schmiedtová for her encouragement and positive feedback in the very early stage of this study, Jaap van der Bent for his help with recruiting participants for Experiment 1 at the Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands), Brigitte Schludermann for providing me with the opportunity to conduct Experiment 2 at the University of Hull (United Kingdom) and helping me with administering the experiment, Miranda van Rossum for kindly allowing me to share her office during my stay in Hull, Roel Vismans for his help with the pilot testing at the University of Sheffield (United Kingdom), Carlos Gussenhoven, Christine Dimroth, and Wolfgang Klein for useful discussion on the data, and Rebecca Defina for her thorough proofreading and help with text editing. Part of the results from Experiment 1 was presented at the EURESCO workshop on the end state of second language acquisition in Crete (Greece), October 12–17, 2002. I thank the participants of the workshop for their useful comments. Finally, I am very grateful to Carlos Gussenhoven, Vincent van Heuven, Bob Ladd, and four anonymous reviewers whose constructive criticisms and detailed comments on the earlier versions of the text have enabled me to improve this work greatly.

concerning this article should be addressed to Aoju Chen, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, P.O. Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Internet:


Recent studies of paralinguistic intonational meaning show that languages differ systematically in how pitch range is used to signal meaning differences, contra previous claims. This poses an additional challenge to second language learners, who generally receive little tutoring on intonation. This study investigates learners' competence and strategies in the perception of paralinguistic intonational meaning by examining the perception of “emphatic” and “surprised” as signaled by pitch range and related variables in two learner groups (L1-Dutch/L2-English, L1-English/L2-Dutch). Results show that transfer plays a considerably larger role in L2 English learners than in L2 Dutch learners. Both learner groups also operate on their knowledge of L2 intonation but in different form-meaning relations. These differences are explained by differences in L2 proficiency, the nature of L2 input, and the salience of form-meaning relations in L2.

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