Cross-linguistic differences in prosodic cues to syntactic disambiguation in German and English

Mary Grantham O'Brien, Carrie N. Jackson, Christine E. Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This study examined whether late-learning English-German second language (L2) learners and late-learning German-English L2 learners use prosodic cues to disambiguate temporarily ambiguous first language and L2 sentences during speech production. Experiments 1a and 1b showed that English-German L2 learners and German-English L2 learners used a pitch rise and pitch accent to disambiguate PP-attachment sentences in German. However, the same participants, as well as monolingual English speakers, only used pitch accent to disambiguate similar English sentences. Taken together, these results indicate the L2 learners used prosody to disambiguate sentences in both of their languages and did not fully transfer cues to disambiguation from their first language to their L2. The results have implications for the acquisition of L2 prosody and the interaction between prosody and meaning in L2 production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-70
Number of pages44
JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


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