Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The music of rise-fall prosodic triggers

Clip art: Clker
Listen to a native speaking English language instructor repeat the citation form a word (in isolation) at the front of the class. Almost invariably, he or she will use what is termed a "rise-fall" intonation pattern, peaking on the primary-stressed syllable. This 2009 summary of a  research report on Livescience.com by Hsu, by Janata at University of California, Davis explains why, in recalling and vocalizing a word, the "music or melody" of the word, its intonation or tonal pattern, should help it "come back."

Haptic research suggests that EHIEP-like "haptic anchoring" of that rise-fall contour (a pedagogical movement pattern across the visual field which includes some type of hand touching on the primary stressed syllable) should enhance encoding and recall. I have yet to do a controlled, empirical test of that prediction with such prosodic triggers, but it has been standard practice for some time to have learners use a rise-fall PMP as one step in working with new or changed sounds or words in homework. They consistently report that it helps them remember the felt sense of a word either (1) in trying to access the pronunciation directly or--(2) more importantly--in noticing after-the-fact a mispronounced or changed target in conversation (as explored in a recent post.)

Try it. Add a little prosodic or  haptic riff to your citation forms. Stay tuned.

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