Discourse and prosody in non-native speakers' reference resolution

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    Differences between native and non-native English listeners in the use of prosodic focus and event structure to anticipate discourse structure and resolve reference
    ( 2017) Schafer, Amy J.
    A series of experiments tested discourse processing in native speakers of English and Japanese- and Korean-native adult second-language learners of English. Results from offline (story continuation) and online (visual world) experiments show that both groups can show sensitivity in their processing decisions to prosodic prominence, grammatical aspect, verb bias, and the form of referential expression, but that the groups are not identical, especially in their tendency to generate expectations relevant to co-reference.
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    Contrastive prosody and the subsequent mention of alternatives during discourse processing
    ( 2018-07-07) Schafer, Amy J. ; Camp, Amber ; Rohde, Hannah ; Grüter, Theres
    Linguistic research has long viewed prosody as an important indicator of information structure in intonationally rich languages like English. Correspondingly, numerous psycholinguistic studies have shown significant effects of prosody, particularly with respect to the immediate processing of a prosodically prominent phrase. Although co-reference resolution is known to be influenced by information structure, it has been less clear whether prosodic prominence can affect decisions about next mention in a discourse, and if so, how. We present results from an open-ended story continuation task, conducted as part of a series of experiments that examine how prosody influences the anticipation and resolution of co-reference. Overall results from the project suggest that prosodic prominence can increase or decrease reference to a saliently pitch-accented phrase, depending on additional circumstances of the referential decision. We argue that an adequate account of prosody’s role in co-reference requires consideration of how the processing system interfaces with multiple levels of linguistic representation.
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    eye gaze data reported in Grüter et al. (2018, Cognition)
    ( 2018-04) Grüter, Theres ; Takeda, Aya ; Rohde, Hannah ; Schafer, Amy J.
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    Intersentential coreference expectations reflect mental models of events
    (Elsevier, 2018) Grüter, Theres ; Takeda, Aya ; Rohde, Hannah ; Schafer, Amy J.
    Comprehenders’ perception of the world is mediated by the mental models they construct. During discourse processing, incoming information allows comprehenders to update their model of the events being described. At the same time, comprehenders use these models to generate expectations about who or what will be mentioned next. The temporal dynamics of this interdependence between language processing and mental event representation has been difficult to disentangle. The present visual world eye-tracking experiment measures listeners’ coreference expectations during an intersentential pause between a sentence about a transfer-of-possession event and a continuation mentioning either its Source or Goal. We found a temporally dispersed but sustained preference for fixating the Goal that was significantly greater when the event was described as completed rather than incomplete (passed versus was passing). This aligns with reported offline sensitivity to event structure, as conveyed via verb aspect, and provides new evidence that our mental model of an event leads to early and, crucially, proactive expectations about subsequent mention in the upcoming discourse.
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    Coreference and discourse coherence in L2: The roles of grammatical aspect and referential form
    ( 2017) Grüter, Theres ; Rohde, Hannah ; Schafer, Amy J.
    Discourse-level factors, such as event structure and the form of referential expressions, play an important role in native speakers’ referential processing. This paper presents an experiment with Japanese- and Korean-speaking learners of English, investigating the extent to which discourse-level biases that have gradient effects in L1 speakers are also implicated in L2 speakers’ coreference choices. Results from a story continuation task indicate that biases involving referential form were remarkably similar for L1 and L2 speakers. In contrast, event structure, indicated by perfective versus imperfective aspect, had a more limited effect on L2 speakers’ referential choices. The L2 results are discussed in light of existing accounts of L1 reference processing, which assume that referential choices are shaped by speakers’ continually updated expectations about what is likely to be mentioned next, and argued to reflect L2 speakers’ reduced reliance on expectations.