Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 June 2020
This study investigates L2 comprehension of focus-to-accentuation mapping in English sentences with focus particle only by advanced learners of English whose L1 was either Cantonese or Dutch. Two experiments were conducted to examine (a) whether L2 learners could map accentuation to focus; and (b) whether they could perceive accentuation in English sentences. Results show that accentuation played little role in Cantonese learners’ comprehension of focus, whereas it affected how accurately and quickly Dutch learners and native controls comprehended focus. Dutch learners were even more efficient than native controls in comprehending focus-to-accentuation mapping. Furthermore, both L2 groups could successfully perceive accentuation in English sentences. These findings suggest that multiple interfaces might not be equally problematic for L2 learners with different L1s, and convergence at multiple interfaces in L2 is possible. The comprehension difficulty observed in Cantonese learners can be attributed to their less detailed representation of focus-to-accentuation mapping in L2.
We would like to thank Tracy Au, James Britton, Alex Brouwer, Julia Fan, Rachida Ganga, Hannah Lam, Kay Wong, Riki Wu, and Alice Zhu for their assistance with various aspects of the study. We also gratefully acknowledge our participants, as well as the lab support from the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics-OTS, the Childhood Bilingualism Research Centre, and the University of Cambridge-CUHK Joint Laboratory for Bilingualism. We have benefited from the discussion with Stephen Matthews, Roumyana Slabakova, Patrick Wong, Iris Mulders, Yanhui Zhang, Lawrence Cheung, Xin Kang, Xiangjun Deng, Mengru Han, Ziyin Mai, and Jiangling Zhou. We are also grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their very valuable comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript.