Implicit Prosody: Similarities in Reading and Listening



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The purpose of this study was to assess whether readers treat words presented with font emphasis as being implicitly accented during silent reading. In two ERP experiments, we compared the effect of capitalizing critical words in a silent reading task to the effect of prosodically stressing those same words in a separate auditory experiment. In Experiment 1, participants (N = 15) listened to short dialogues in which the target sentence contained two noun phrases (N1 and N2), which alternated as the focused word depending on the context. In addition, either the focused or the unfocused word in the target sentence received a pitch accent. In Experiment 1, both N1 and N2, when focused, elicited a greater negativity than when they were unfocused. Accents on N1 elicited a greater positivity, while accents on N2 elicited a greater negativity, compared to when these words were not accented. These results were inconsistent with previous work by Johnson, Clifton, Breen and Morris (2003), who used identical materials. We suggest that differences in methodology may account for these disparities. In Experiment 2, participants (N = 14) read written versions of the dialogues presented in Experiment 1 with varying capitalization (i.e., CAPS) in place of varying pitch accents. In contrast to Experiment 1, focused nouns elicited a more positive response, while CAPS elicited a greater positivity for N1 only. These results were inconsistent with results from Experiment 1. Changes to methodology are necessary to determine whether effects observed for explicit accents generalize to implicit accents, as realized by font emphasis.



Implicit Prosody, Font-Emphasis, Silent Reading, ERPs