A Preliminary Study of Prosodic Disambiguation by Chinese EFL Learners

Yuanyuan Zhang, Hongwei Ding


This study investigated whether Chinese learners of English as a foreign language (EFL learners hereafter) could use prosodic cues to resolve syntactically ambiguous sentences in English. 8 sentences with 3 types of syntactic ambiguity were adopted. They were far/near PP attachment, left/right word attachment and wide/narrow scope. In the production experiment, 15 Chinese college students who passed the annual national examination CET (College English Test) Band 4 and 5 native English speakers from America were recruited. They were asked to read the 8 target sentences after hearing the contexts spoken by a Native American speaker, which clarified the intended meaning of the ambiguous sentences. The preliminary results showed that, as the native speakers did, Chinese EFL learners employed different durational patterns to express the alternative meanings of the ambiguous sentences by altering prosodic phrasing. That is, the duration of the pre-boundary items were lengthened and pause were inserted at the boundary. But the perception experiment showed that the utterances produced by Chinese EFL learners couldn’t be effectively perceived by the native speakers due to their different use of pre-boundary lengthening and pause. The conclusion is that Chinese EFL learners find prosodic disambiguation difficult.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1210

Cite as: Zhang, Y., Ding, H. (2017) A Preliminary Study of Prosodic Disambiguation by Chinese EFL Learners. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 374-378, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1210.


@inproceedings{Zhang2017,
  author={Yuanyuan Zhang and Hongwei Ding},
  title={A Preliminary Study of Prosodic Disambiguation by Chinese EFL Learners},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={374--378},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1210},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1210}
}