The Production of English Noun-verb Stress Contrast in Rising Intonation by Taiwanese EFL Learners 國立中山大學外文所程筱雯 ABSTRACT

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1 The Production of English Noun-verb Stress Contrast in Rising Intonation by Taiwanese EFL Learners 國立中山大學外文所程筱雯 ABSTRACT The present study aims to investigate how the acoustic cues (i.e., mean pitch, duration, and mean intensity) are utilized by Taiwanese EFL learners to produce English noun-verb stress contrasts in rising intonation, and eight Taiwanese EFL learners, either in advanced level or intermediate level, recorded six English noun-verb stress contrasts which were put in a rising-intonation sentence frame (i.e., Did you say?), and four native speakers of English were also recruited for recording as a basis for comparison. Then, the vowels of the stressed and unstressed syllables were measured in terms of mean pitch, duration, and mean intensity. The results show that Taiwanese EFL learners, either in advanced or intermediate level, utilize duration, but not mean pitch, to produce the noun-verb contrasts, while English native speakers use both duration and mean pitch. Key words: English stress, rising intonation, non-native speakers production of English stress

2 1. Introduction In English, stressed syllables are generally more prominent than unstressed ones (Campbell and Beckman, 1997; Gay, 1978; Ladefoged, 2006; Lindblom, 1963; Vanderslice and Ladefoged, 1972). In other words, stressed syllables tend to have higher pitch, longer duration, and greater intensity than an unstressed syllable. Also, stressed syllables entail full vowel quality, unlike unstressed syllables, in which the vowel quality is reduced. However, the pitch value in stressed syllables can be high or low in different intonations (Ladefoged, 2006; Ladd, 1996; Lieberman and Pierrehumbert, 1984; Pierrehumbert, 1980). For instance, stressed syllables are high pitched in falling intonation, while they are low-pitched in rising intonation. Even though stressed syllables in rising intonation are low-pitched, they are still considered more prominent than unstressed syllables, since duration, one of the correlates, is still longer in stressed syllables. In Mandarin, In Mandarin Chinese, there are four lexical tones which are different in pitch height or pitch contour (Chao, 1968; Cheng, 1973). Read in isolation, four words with the same properties in the segment level, ma, have different word meanings if they have different tones. Ma with tone1 means mother, ma with tone2 means hemp, ma with tone3 means horse and ma with tone4 means scold. Despite that pitch serves as the primary source for providing information in four tones, the other two cues, duration and intensity, differ systematically when they are in different tones (Howie, 1976). The results suggest that

3 the shortest tone is tone 4, and the longest tone is tone 1. In addition, tone 3 is also long, but exhibits a decrease in intensity. As for Mandarin intonation, Unlike English, in which a stressed syllable can have high or low pitch in different intonations, the pitch value of the four tones cannot be changed drastically since pitch value is used for distinguishing meanings in Mandarin. Therefore, the intonation of Mandarin Chinese involves the changes of overall pitch (Shen, 1989; 1990). That is, when a Mandarin utterance is expressed in a question form, the overall pitch is higher than the one expressed as a statement form. It is believed that the native language (L1) of second language (L2) learners may influence their L2 phonological acquisition from segmental to suprasegmental levels when L2 learners are acquiring a second language. Thus, L2 learners may or may not have difficulties in perceiving or producing target sounds (Best, 1994; Flege, 1995). Especially, it is believed that Mandarin L2 learners would treat English stress in terms of tonal realization, and some researchers aim to identify how Mandarin speakers utilize the acoustic characteristics of English stress (i.e., pitch value, duration, intensity, and vowel quality) to perceive or produce English stress. For instance, in a code-switching context study conducted by Cheng (1968), Cheng suggests that Mandarin speakers treat English unstressed syllables as low tones. Cheng indicates that the triggering of tone3 sandhi explains Mandarin speakers tendency to treat English unstressed syllables as low tones in a code-switching context. Another example that Mandarin speakers perceive English stress in terms of tonal realization

4 is Ou s study (2010) which suggests that in the context of L2 phonological acquisition, Mandarin speakers also tend to treat English stressed syllables as those with higher pitch, but not with lower pitch. To briefly sum up, Mandarin speakers only perceptually treat English stress as those with high pitch values but not as those with low pitch values. To briefly sum up, we have found that L2 learners would rely on their L1 to perceive or produce L2 sounds (Best, 1994; Flege, 1995), and EFL learners whose L1 is Mandarin would treat English stress in terms of tonal realization (Lai, 2008; Ou, 2010). Particularly, it is believed that Mandarin speakers would treat English stressed syllables as high tones, and unstressed syllables as low tones. However, in English, stressed syllables can be high or low in pitch in different intonation patterns (Ladefoged, 2006; Ladd, 1996; Lieberman and Pierrehumbert, 1984; Pierrehumbert, 1980), and according to Ou (2010), EFL learners whose L1 is Mandarin have perceptual difficulties in identifying stress location in rising intonation in which the stressed syllables are low-pitched. Since we have found that Mandarin EFL learners have difficulties in identifying stress placement in rising intonation, this study will investigate whether they also have difficulties in employing the acoustic characteristics (i.e., pitch value, duration, and intensity) to produce English stress in rising intonation. 2. Method 2.1 Subjects In our experimental groups, four Taiwanese senior-high-school students were treated as

5 the intermediate level in their English proficiency (TWI, here after), and another four Taiwanese English-major graduate students were treated as the advanced level in their English proficiency (TWA, here after). In addition to the two Taiwanese groups, another four English native speakers (ENS, here after) were recruited to participate as a comparison basis, and all ENS were from the northern part of America. 2.2 Materials Six English disyllabic noun-verb stress contrasts, which differ in the location of stress, were selected as test materials, listed in Table 2. Table 1. English noun-verb stress contrasts used in the present study Disyllabic words stress on the first syllable stress on the second syllable transplant tránsplant / trænsplænt/ transplánt /træn splænt/ import ímport / ɪmpɔrt/ impórt /ɪm pɔrt/ permit pérmit / pɝmɪt/ permít /pɚ mɪt/ desert désert / dɛzɚt/ desért /dɪ zɝt/ rebel rébel / rɛbļ/ rebél /rɪ bɛl/ record récord / rɛkɚd/ recórd /rɪ kɔrd/ In such disyllabic words, the trochaic stress pattern (stress on the first syllable) often refers to nouns, while the iambic stress pattern (stress on the second syllable) often refers to verbs. Three of the pairs (i.e., tránsplant vs. transplánt, ímport vs. impórt, and pérmit vs. permít) keep the vowel quality intact regardless of whether the stress is on the first syllable or the second one. The other three pairs (i.e., désert vs. desért, rébel vs. rebél, and récord vs. recórd) have vowel reduction when the location of stress changes. Therefore, the total number of the data for measurements was 288 (2 (nouns and verbs) x 6 (pairs) x 2 (times) x 4 (participants

6 in each group) x 3 (groups of speakers)), and we assumed that the selected data represented our subjects best attempt to produce these test words. 2.3 Recording procedure All of the recordings took place in a quiet and comfortable classroom, and subjects were asked to read the materials. Before they started recording, they had sufficient time for preparing and checking the pronunciations with the researcher. The recording machine was a Sony Hi-MD recorder, and the samples were digitalized at a sample rate of 44.1 Hz, 16 bits. During the recording, the microphone was placed on the table, and there were two repeating steps for them to follow. In the first step, to familiarize with the materials, subjects were required to read a contextualized sentence carrying the six English noun-verb stress contrasts three times. The contextualized sentences were presented on a piece of paper. In total, there are twelve contextualized sentences which carry the twelve test words (6 pairs x 2 words in a contrast). The word list which includes other sentences is attached in Appendix. In the second step, after reading the test words in the carried sentences, the subjects had to have a short conversation with the researcher. The researcher would produce one of the English noun-verb stress contrasts with wrong stress placement in a contextualized sentence, and subjects should ask the experimenter whether the target word read by the experimenter was wrong by putting the wrong word in a yes-no question sentence frame (i.e., did you say?) in rising

7 intonation three times. Then, they had to produce the correct word in a statement sentence frame (i.e., No, it is.) in falling-intonation three times. After completing the first conversation, subjects continued to have the second conversation with the researcher. The procedure proceeded until the participants finished reading all the test words, and the length of recording was around 30 minutes. 2.4 Acoustic Measurement We used Praat acoustic analysis software (Boersma and Weenink, 2004) to measure the onset to the offset of the vowels in the stressed and unstressed syllables. The sonorant consonants following the measured vowels in some words, like /r/ in permit, desert and record and /l/ in rebel, were also taken, because it was difficult to separate the sonorant consonants from the vowels. The vowels were measured acoustically for: 1) the average of F0, 2) duration, and 3) the average of intensity. 2.5 Ratio Transformation We followed Lai s ratio analysis (2008) to investigate the phonetic characteristics of our subjects production, and the ratio analysis was done in two steps. First, in order to investigate whether there are differences in the mean pitch value, duration, and intensity of the six English noun-verb stress contrasts produced by our subjects between the stressed and unstressed syllables, the value of the correlates of stress between the first and second vowels in the same word was derived, and the ratio was computed from vowel 1 over vowel 2 (V1/

8 V2) in both nouns and verbs. Formula 1 is presented in Example (1): (1) Formula 1: first syllable (V1) / second syllable (V2) Second, the stressed-to-unstressed ratio was used to inspect the extent to which Taiwanese EFL learners distinguish stressed and unstressed syllables in nouns and verbs differently from English native speakers by using the phonetic cues (e.g. mean pitch, duration, and mean intensity). For nouns, the ratio was computed from vowel 1 over vowel 2 (V1/ V2), whereas the ratio for verbs was computed from vowel 2 over vowel 1 (V2/ V1). Formula 2 is shown in Example (2). (2) Formula 2: stressed syllable / unstressed syllable a. Nouns: first syllable (V1)/ second syllable (V2) b. Verbs: second syllable (V2)/ first syllable (V1) Example (2a) presents the stressed-to-unstressed ratio computed for noun readings, while example (2b) shows that computed for verb readings. In order to determine whether there were significant differences in the stress correlates between nouns and verbs produced by our subjects, several sets of paired T-tests were separately conducted for different groups of speakers (i.e., ENS, TWA and TWI) to compare the first-to-second ratio of the stress correlates on the effect of the placement of stress. In addition, if all of our subjects did or did not utilize the correlates of stress to produce nouns and verbs, then the extent to which they produced differently would be explored. We

9 conducted several sets of two-factor mixed ANOVA to examine the stressed-to-unstressed ratio of the stress correlates on the effect of speakers mother tongues. 3. Results 3.1 The phonetic characteristics of our subjects English noun-verb stress contrasts in falling intonation We had four subjects in each group who produced the six noun-verb stress contrasts in rising intonation for two times, so we had 288 sound files (4 speakers x 3 groups x 6 contrasts x 2 words in a contrast) for analysis. First, we will present the value of mean pitch, duration, and mean intensity of the vowels in the first (V1) and the second syllables (V2) produced by these three groups in Table 1.

10 Table 1. The averages of mean pitch, duration, and intensity of the syllables in nouns and verbs produced by three groups Groups of speakers ENS TWA TWI Nouns V1 Mean pitch (Hz) M St. D Duration (ms) M St. D Mean intensity (db) M St. D V2 Mean pitch (Hz) M St. D Duration (ms) M St. D Mean intensity (db) M St. D Verbs V1 Mean pitch (Hz) M St. D Duration (ms) M St. D Mean intensity (db) M St. D V2 Mean pitch (Hz) M St. D Duration (ms) M St. D Mean intensity (db) M St. D First, in all groups of speakers, the mean pitch value in the second syllables either in nouns or verb was greater than that in the first syllables, because the English noun-verb stress contrasts were all in rising intonation. However, in the TWA group, we found that there were twenty nouns, in which the mean pitch of the first syllable was higher than the second

11 syllable, so these nouns (i.e., tránsplant, ímport, pérmit, désert, and rébel) were excluded in Table 1. In addition, we found that only our English native speakers produced nouns and verbs differently in terms of mean pitch value, and the differences of mean pitch in nouns and verbs seemed to be found in the second syllable. More specifically, the mean pitch of the second syllable in their nouns was higher than the one in their verbs. That is to say, only our English native speakers produced stressed syllables with lower pitch in both nouns and verbs, while our Taiwanese EFL learners in TWA and TWI did not. Second, the average duration of the second syllables was always longer than the first syllables either in nouns or verbs. However, in the duration value from all of our subjects, we found that the first syllables in nouns were longer than those in verbs, and the second syllables in verbs were longer than those in nouns. Third, the mean intensity in the second syllables either in nouns or verbs was larger than that in the first syllable. To briefly sum up, among all of our subjects in the three groups, they seemed to produce stressed syllables with longer duration either in nouns or verbs, and they all produced the second syllable with higher pitch and greater intensity either in nouns or verbs. However, only English native speakers produced nouns and verbs differently in terms of mean pitch, and they produced stressed syllables with lower pitch First-to-second ratios Although we noticed that some of the phonetic values (i.e., mean pitch, duration, and

12 intensity) of the stressed syllables differ from those of the unstressed ones, we wanted to determine whether these differences were statistically significant. Hence, the first-to-second ratio was adopted. To see whether mean pitch, duration, and intensity were significantly different in the stressed and unstressed syllables either in nouns or verbs among these three groups of speakers, several sets of Paired T-tests were conducted. Figure 1 shows the box plots of first-to-second ratios for the mean pitch, duration, and mean intensity for nouns and verbs. In Figure 1, the gray box plots represent the first-to-second ratios of nouns, while the white ones describe those of verbs. The X axis lists the three groups of speakers, ENS, TWA, and TWI. The Y axis shows the first-to-second ratios for nouns and verbs. In addition, the box plots with slashes represent the first-to-second ratios for mean pitch, those with dots depict those for duration, and the rest of the plots represent mean intensity. Figure 1. The box plots of first-to-second ratios for the mean pitch, duration, and mean intensity for nouns and verbs in rising intonation First, we found that the first-to-second ratios for mean pitch were all below one either in nouns or verbs. Because our test words were read in rising intonation, the second syllables in

13 nouns and verbs were all higher in pitch than the first syllables. According to the results, only the first-to-second ratios for mean pitch in English native speakers nouns and verbs were significantly different (t (47) = , p <.001), and those in nouns were smaller than those in verbs. In other words, the pitch value of the second syllables in nouns, which were unstressed, was larger than those in verbs, which were stressed, so the first-to-second ratios in nouns were smaller than those in verbs. However, the first-to-second ratios for mean pitch in the nouns and verbs produced by Taiwanese EFL learners in advance or intermediate level were not significantly different (TWA: t (37) = 2.114, p = 0.054; TWI: t (47) = , p = 0.839). That is to say, our Taiwanese subjects in TWA and TWI produced nouns and verbs with the same pitch contour, in which the second syllables were always higher than the first syllables, and the second syllables in nouns and verbs were not significantly different. Second, the first-to-second ratios for duration were all smaller than one, because the second syllables either in nouns or verbs were longer than the first syllables. However, the first syllables in nouns were longer than that in verbs. Therefore, although the first-to-second ratios in nouns and verbs were all below one, the ratios in nouns were larger than those in verbs. Moreover, the difference in first-to-second ratios for duration between nouns and verbs was significant for English native speakers (t (47) = 6.928, p <.001), TWA (t (47) = 5.464, p <.001), and TWI (t (47) = 4.630, p <.001). That is to say, the speakers in the present study all distinguished stressed and unstressed syllables either in nouns or verbs by using duration.

14 Lastly, we found that the first-to-second ratios for mean intensity were all below one either in nouns or verbs, because the second syllables either in nouns or verbs were all greater in mean intensity than unstressed syllables. In addition, the differences in first-to-second ratios for mean intensity between nouns and verbs were not significant for English native speakers, (t (47) =0.419, p =.679), TWA (t (47) = 2.796, p =.051), and TWI (t (47) =1.314, p =.202). In other words, in all of our subjects production, the mean intensity in the second syllables was always greater than that in the first syllables either in nouns or verbs, and all of our subjects did not distinguish nouns and verbs in rising intonation in terms of mean intensity. To briefly sum up, our English native speakers produced the six English noun-verb stress contrasts in rising intonation by using mean pitch and duration, but our Taiwanese EFL learners in advanced or intermediate level only produced those by using duration; they did not use mean pitch Stressed-to-unstressed ratios Our Taiwanese EFL learners did not distinguish between nouns and verbs in rising intonation with different mean pitch value, while our English native speakers did. Since we found that Taiwanese EFL learners utilized mean pitch differently from English native speakers, there was no need for us to adopt stressed-to-unstressed ratios to investigate the extent to which Taiwanese EFL learners produced differently from English native speakers.

15 However, we found that both Taiwanese EFL learners and English native speakers could distinguish between stressed and unstressed syllables in nouns and verbs in terms of duration, and they all did not distinguish those in terms of mean intensity. In this case, we examined whether our Taiwanese EFL learners utilize duration and mean intensity to produce English noun-verb stress contrasts in rising intonation differently from English native speakers. Two-factor mixed ANOVA was conducted to measure how different Taiwanese EFL learners produce nouns and verbs in terms of duration and mean intensity. The between-subject factor was the groups of speakers (English control, Taiwanese EFL learners with advanced and intermediate level), and the within-subject factor was the syntactic category, nouns and verbs. The dependant variable was the stressed-to-unstressed ratios. For nouns, the ratio was computed from vowel 1 over vowel 2 (V1/V2), while the ratio for verbs was computed from vowel 2 over vowel 1 (V2/ V1). Table 2 shows the significance, F and p value for the Two-factor mixed ANOVA on mean pitch, duration, and means intensity. Table 2. The significance, F and p value for the Two-factor mixed ANOVA on mean pitch, duration, and mean intensity (rising intonation) Significant differences between F value p value ENS, TWA, and TWI Mean pitch N/A N/A N/A Duration F (2, 141) = p =.290 Mean intensity F (2, 141) = p =.189 From Table 2, we determined that the stressed-to-unstressed ratios for duration and mean intensity were not significantly different in the production from our subjects in ENS, TWA

16 and TWI. In other words, our Taiwanese EFL learners, in either TWA or TWI, utilized duration and mean intensity in the same manner as our English native speakers. 4. Discussion The present study examines Taiwanese EFL learners production of English noun-verb stress contrasts in rising intonation, which is usually used to indicate yes-no questions. Results suggest that our Taiwanese EFL learners, in advanced or intermediate level, only utilized duration to produce stressed and unstressed syllables either in nouns or verbs, while our English native speakers utilized not only duration, but also mean pitch to produce nouns and verbs. According to our results, first, we found that our Taiwanese EFL learners are able to utilize duration to produce the six English noun-verb stress contrasts in rising intonation. Due to their success in utilizing duration, we suggest that although duration is a secondary cue for Mandarin speakers to distinguish Mandarin tones (Howie, 1976), Taiwanese EFL learners are still able to utilize duration to produce stressed and unstressed syllables. Second, we found that our Taiwanese EFL learners seem to have difficulties in utilizing mean pitch to produce the test words in rising intonation, since their nouns and verbs were not significantly different in terms of mean pitch. In rising intonation, English stressed syllables are low-pitched. Because pitch values in Mandarin tones cannot be changed drastically in different intonations, Taiwanese EFL learners, who treat stressed syllables as those with high tones, seem to have difficulties producing English stressed syllables with low

17 pitch values in rising intonation. In addition, Flege (1995) suggests that some difficulties in production may result from difficulties in perception, and according to Ou (2010), Taiwanese EFL learners tend to perceptually assimilate English stressed syllables into Mandarin high tones; thus, they experience difficulties in perceiving English stressed syllables in rising intonation. Since Taiwanese EFL learners have difficulties in perceiving low-pitched stressed syllables, we conclude based on our research that Taiwanese EFL learners difficulties in producing low-pitched syllables may result from their non-native perception. Third, we believe that some of our Taiwanese EFL learners in TWA still produce stressed syllables by using high pitch. According to our results, speakers in TWA produce some of the stressed syllables in nouns with higher pitch, which is used to signal stressed syllables in falling intonation, and it seems to suggest that they still rely on high pitch to produce English stressed syllables. To sum up, Taiwanese EFL learners cannot treat English stress with higher and lower pitch in different intonations, and their difficulties in using lower mean pitch to signal stressed syllables in rising intonation may suggest that they tend to produce English stressed syllables with higher pitch. 5. Conclusion The present study examines the acoustic characteristics of English noun-verb stress contrasts in rising intonation which is usually used to indicate a yes-no question. Although Taiwanese EFL learners in TWA and TWI resemble English native speakers in their

18 production of stressed and unstressed syllables in nouns or verbs by utilizing duration but not mean intensity, they experience some difficulties in differentiating between stressed and unstressed syllables in rising intonation by using mean pitch. In their English noun-verb stress contrasts, they produce nouns and verbs without differences in mean pitch. Reference Best, C. (1994). The emergence of native-language phonological influences in infants: a perceptual assimilation model. In J. C. Goodman & H. C. Nusbaum (Eds.) The development of speech perception: the transition from speech sounds to spoken words (pp ). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Campbell, N., and Beckman, M. (1997). Stress, prominence, and spectral tilt. In A. Botinis & G. Kouroupetroglou & G. C. Athens (Eds.), Proceedings of ESCA Workshop on Intonation: Theory, Models, and Applications, (pp ). Athens, ESCA. Chao, Y. R. (1968). A Grammar of Spoken Chinese. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Cheng, C. C. (1968). English stresses and Chinese tones in Chinese sentences, Phonetica, 18, Cheng, C. C. (1973). A Synchronic Phonology of Mandarin Chinese. The Hague: Mouton. Flege, J.E. (1995). Second-language speech learning: Theory, findings and problems. In W. Strange (Ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-linguistic

19 research (pp ). Timonium, MD: York Press. Gay, T. (1978). Physiological and Acoustic Correlates of Perceived Stress. Language and Speech, 38, Howie, J. M. (1976). Acoustic Studies of Mandarin Vowels and Tones. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ladefoged, P. (2006). A Course in Phonetics (5 th ed.). Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. Lai, Y. W. (2008). Acoustic Realization and Perception of English Lexical Stress by Mandarin Learners (Doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas). Lieberman, M., and Pierrehumbert, J. (1984). Intonational Invariance Under Changes in Pitch Range and Length. In Aronoff, M. and Oehrle, R.T. (Eds.) In Language Sound Structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Lindblom, B. (1963). Spectrographic study of vowel reduction. Journal of Acoustical Society of America, 35, Ou, S.C. (2010). Taiwanese TFL learners perception of English word stress. Concentric: Studies in Linguistics, 36(1), Pater, J. E. (1997). Metrical parameter missetting in second language acquisition. In S.J. Hannahs & M. Young-Scholten (Eds.), Focus on Phonological Acquisition, (pp ). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Pierrehumbert, J. (1980). The Phonology and Phonetics of English Intonation. PhD thesis,

20 MIT, published 1988 by IULC. Shen. (1989). Interplay of the four citation tones and intonation. Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 17, Shen, X. N. (1990). The Prosody of Mandarin Chinese. California: University of California Press. Vanderslice, R., and Ladefoged, P. (1972). Binary Suprasegmental Features and Transformational Word-Accentuation Rules. Language, 48(4),

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