The effects of pitch accentuation and beat gestures on information recall in contrastive discourse

Author(s): Olga Kushch and Pilar Prieto


Research in audiovisual prosody has shown that typically beat gestures are temporally integrated with prominent positions in speech (e.g., [1, 2]). There is independent evidence that both prosodic prominence (e.g., pitch accents) and gestural prominence associated with words (e.g., beat gestures) facilitate the recall of information (e.g., [3, 4, 5]). However, previous studies did not directly compare the beneficial effects of pitch accentuation without beats with pitch accentuation with beats. This study investigates the role of prosodic prominence (pitch accents) and gesture prominence (beat gestures) on the recall of contrastive information in natural discourse. Twenty Catalan-dominant native speakers were asked to watch 48 short videotaped discourses each containing two contrast sets with two items (e.g., The fish shop and the grocery shop). The critical word in the sequence was presented under two experimental conditions: 1) accompanied by prosodic prominence (L+H* pitch accent); and 2) accompanied by prosodic prominence and gestural prominence (L+H* pitch accent + beat). The results of the recall task revealed that the presence of beat gestures associated with prosodic prominence favored word recall of contrastive information in discourse in comparison with the condition without beat gestures.