Tid: Onsdagen 7 november kl. 15.00

Plats: C307, Södra huset, Frescati, Stockholms universitet


Many languages use prosody to mark the focus of an utterance. The ways in which this is done can however differ between different languages, and in this project we investigate how such cross-linguistic differences affect acquisition. In Standard Dutch, focused constituents typically carry a falling accent, while post-focus constituents are mostly de-accented (Chen, 2007; Hanssen, Peters, & Gussenhoven, 2008). In Standard Swedish, focused constituents carry a floating high tone attached to the end of the lexical accent of the focused word; post-focal lexical accents tend to be realised with a narrower pitch range (Bruce, 2005).
Research on the acquisition of prosodic focus marking is sparse, and existing literature is centred around West Germanic languages (Chen, 2011, on Dutch children; Müller, Höhle, Schmitz, & Weissenborn, 2006, on German children; Wonnacott & Watson, 2008, on English children). As a consequence we have limited understanding of how prosodic focus marking is acquired in languages where pitch is used for both pragmatic and lexical purposes.

We elicit sentences with varying focus structure from Dutch and Swedish speaking children between 4 and 11 using a picture-matching task. Some of the questions we address are:

  1. How do the children adjust their prosody on the focal constituent?
  2. How do the children adjust their prosody on the post-focal constituent?
  3. Do the children use prosody to distinguish between contrastive, narrow and broad focus?

In my talk I will present some preliminary results from our pilot studies, with special attention to methodological and theoretical issues regarding the Swedish part of the project.

About Anna Sara Romøren
Anna Sara Romøren is currently a PhD student at Universiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands. She has a Master in Linguistics (2011) and a Bachelor in Spanish and Latin American language, literature and history (2008) from Oslo University, where she has also been a Research assistant working on language acquisition and language disorders and transcribing and collecting language data from toddlers and conducted standardized diagnostic interviews of parents using ADI-R, coding questionnaires as well as performing a range of organizational tasks related to the assessments taking place at the ABC clinic. She is currently in charge of the Swedish part of a larger cross-linguistic study of the acquisition of prosodic focus marking in children (Get the focus right), where she will compare how Dutch and Swedish speaking children acquire this linguistic skill. She will be recording in Stockholm next spring.

Anna Sara asked to come to give a seminar in Phonetics at Stockholm University to discuss intonation and recordings of children with us.


Lisa Gustavsson