Effects of L1 prosodic structure on narrow focus realizations in an L2: Evidence from Hungarian learners of German

Author(s): Susanne Beinrucker, Felicitas Kleber and Katalin Mády

Abstract

This study investigates the realization of prosodic structure by L2-learners assuming that prosodic features of the L1 are transferred into the L2. Hungarian and German are prosodically diverse, differing both on the word stress and sentence accent level. While Hungarian has (1) fixed word stress on the initial syllable and (2) a syntactically fixed focus position (preverbal), German has variable word stress, and words in any sentence position can act as a narrow focus (i.e. without a shift in word order). Additionally, narrow focus is typically produced with rising accents in German while they tend to be realized with falling accents in Hungarian. Five Hungarian learners of German and five German control speakers read various repetitions of two German target words differing in word stress (initial vs. medial) that occurred either before the finite verb, which is the focus position in Hungarian, or after it. Hungarians produced more falling accents than German speakers and tended to produce non-focussed elements with strong prominence if they appeared before the finite verb. Word stress errors occurred more often in tokens with stress on the first syllable – presumably due to overgeneralization. Differences in pitch accents are discussed with respect to language acquisition models.

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