Edited by Pilar Prieto and Núria Esteve-Gibert
[Trends in Language Acquisition Research 23] 2018
► pp. 247–270
Chapter 13. Gradual development of focus prosody and affect prosody comprehension
A proposal for a holistic approach
Excellence in communication skills requires an ability to appropriately represent the discourse structure including focus, as well as good comprehension of speaker affect. Both focus and affect are communicated in large part through prosody, so comprehension and production of the accompanying prosody is essential. However, past studies on focus prosody have been both theoretically and methodologically separated from the research on affect prosody. (In this chapter, I use the term ‘focus prosody’ to refer to prosodic phenomena that are either produced or perceived as the cue to a specific part of speech that conveys the focal content of a message. This includes ‘narrow focus’, which is defined in terms of the informational scope (e.g., answers to Wh-questions), and ‘contrastive focus’, which is a subtype of narrow focus that evokes interpretational alternatives.) This chapter argues that the suggested difference in the developmental trajectory (i.e., focus prosody develops slower as compared to affect prosody) may be an artifact of the perspective divergence, and points out that the mastery of prosodic skills in both these domains must be necessarily gradual – though they may not develop hand-in-hand. A holistic approach that considers the interaction between affect prosody and focus prosody is proposed as a future direction of the research on prosodic development within and across individuals.
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