CLS Speaker Series - Scott Fraundorf (University of Pittsburgh) What Happened (and What Didn’t): Prosody, Gesture, and Salient Alternatives in Discourse
What Happened (and What Didn’t): Prosody, Gesture, and Salient Alternatives in Discourse
Representing salient alternatives to true propositions may contribute to successful understanding and memory of discourse (e.g., Rooth, 1992). I review recent work from my laboratory investigating how memory for discourse may benefit from linguistic devices that indicate contrasting alternatives. In Experiments 1-2, participants listened to short recorded discourses that contained contrast sets with two items (e.g. “Both the British scientists and French scientists were searching for the endangered monkey"); a continuation specified one item from the set (e.g., “Eventually, the British scientists found the monkey and planted a radio tag on it”). Prosodic pitch accenting on the critical word in the continuation was manipulated between non-contrastive (H* in the ToBI system) and contrastive (L+H*). On a subsequent recognition memory test, the L+H* accent facilitated correct rejections of the contrast item (i.e., “French scientists”) but did not benefit rejections of lure items never mentioned in the original discourse (e.g., “German scientists"), suggesting that participants had encoded something about the specific contrastive alternative. Subsequent work (Experiment 3) replicated these memory benefits in written discourse as a function of font emphasis. Further, increased reading times on emphasized words suggests that encoding contrastive alternatives may be effortful and time-consuming. Consequently, it might be more difficult for comprehenders processing in their second language (L2), and I present recent work (Experiments 4-5) on how and why these cues are processed differently by L2 learners. Finally, I close by discussing ongoing work examining how these prosodic cues may be integrated with gesture in multi- modal discourse processing (Experiment 6). On the whole, the results suggest that computing and remembering salient alternatives contributes to successful memory for discourse, but that doing so can be time-consuming and difficult.