Studies from German-speaking Europe
Identification of word boundaries and accented syllables in German by German and non-German listeners
This study concerns the perception of boundaries and accented syllables by native German subjects as compared to Japanese non-speakers and learners of the language after three and 18 months of language practice. The results are compared with those from Chinese and Mexican subjects tested in earlier studies. Stimuli were six-syllable sequences excised from a context of three poly-syllabic words of German that were presented to participants who had to select the syllables they perceived as accented, as well as the locations of word boundaries. Results show that German native subjects perform well at the word boundary task, but mark correctly less than two thirds of accented syllables. Japanese non-learners still detect a considerable number of word boundaries and accented syllables. Learners of German show improvement at the task with growing experience though they often pick legal subword units that do not necessarily form a plausible sequence. Correlation analysis of factors for syllable and boundary selection performed for non-learners and German subjects – as expected – shows considerably different behaviours. Whereas the boundary location does not influence the Germans’ decision on the accent location, Japanese non-learners show a preference to mark an accent when the syllable is followed by a word boundary. Compared with Chinese and Mexican learners of German, however, Japanese subjects performed more poorly. We also found that the acoustic properties of the syllables had a larger impact on the non-learners’ decisions since they could not operate on linguistic knowledge of German.
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