Resolution of lexical ambiguity by emotional prosody in a non-native language

Author(s): Adriana Hanuliková and Julia Haustein

Abstract

It is well known that a speaker’s communicative intention and his/her emotional state affect the prosodic characteristics of an utterance. Emotional prosody can function as one type of contextual cues that listeners use to disambiguate word meaning or to derive word meaning from novel words in their native language [1, 3, 4]. Here we asked whether non-native speakers of English integrate emotional prosody during resolution of lexical ambiguity. Based on a vocabulary test with 32 native speakers of German, we selected a subset of the original English homophone stimuli from [3]. In a two-alternative forced-choice task, 71 native speakers of German were asked to choose the meaning of an English homophone (with a happy, sad, and neutral meaning) spoken in three different affective tones (happy, sad, and neutral) that were congruent, incongruent, or neutral with respect to the affective meaning. We found a significant emotion congruency effect for sad but not for happy homophones. Despite this asymmetry, the result suggests that non-native listeners use emotional prosody during non-native lexical selection.

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