Stress Judgment and Production in English Derivation, and Word Reading in Adult Mandarin-Speaking English Learners


For monolingual English-speaking children, judgment and production of stress in derived words, including words with phonologically neutral (e.g., -ness) and non-neutral suffixes (e.g., -ity), is important to both academic vocabulary growth and to word reading. For Mandarin-speaking adult English learners (AELs) the challenge of learning the English stress system might be complicated by cross-linguistic differences in prosodic function and features. As Mandarin-speakers become more proficient in English, patterns similar to those seen in monolingual children could emerge in which awareness and use of stress and suffix cues benefit word reading. A correlational design was used to examine the contributions of English stress in derivation with neutral and non-neutral suffixes to English word and nonword reading. Stress judgment in non-neutral derivation predicted word reading after controlling for working memory and English vocabulary; whereas stress production in neutral derivation contributed to word reading and pseudoword decoding, independent of working memory and English vocabulary. Although AELs could use stress and suffix cues for word reading, AELs were different from native English speakers in awareness of non-neutral suffix cues conditioning lexical stress placement. AELs may need to rely on lexical storage of primary stress in derivations with non-neutral suffixes.

Publication Title

Journal of Psycholinguistic Research