This project focuses on structural and prosodic effects during reading, examining their influence on agreement processing and comprehension in native English (L1) and Spanish–English bilingual (L2) speakers. We consolidate research from several distinct areas of inquiry—cognitive processing, reading fluency, and L1/L2 processing—in order to support the integration of prosody with a cue-based retrieval mechanism for subject-verb agreement. To explore this proposal, the experimental design manipulated text presentation to influence implicit prosody, using sentences designed to induce subject-verb agreement attraction errors. Materials included simple and complex relative clauses with head nouns and verbs that were either matched or mismatched for number. Participants read items in one of three presentation formats (whole sentence, word-by-word, or phrase-by-phrase), rated each item for grammaticality, and responded to a comprehension probe. Results indicated that while overall, message comprehension was prioritized over subject-verb agreement computation, presentation format differentially affected both measures in the L1 and L2 groups. For the L1 participants, facilitating the projection of phrasal prosody onto text (phrase-by-phrase presentation) enhanced performance in agreement processing, while disrupting prosodic projection via word-by-word presentation decreased comprehension accuracy. For the L2 participants, however, phrase-by-phrase presentation was not significantly beneficial for agreement processing, and additionally resulted in lower comprehension accuracy. These differences point to a significant role of prosodic phrasing during agreement processing in both L1 and L2 speakers, additionally suggesting that it may contribute to a cue-based retrieval agreement model, either acting as a cue directly, or otherwise scaffolding the retrieval process. The discussion and results presented provide support both for a cue-based retrieval mechanism in agreement, and the function of prosody within such a mechanism, adding further insight into the interaction of retrieval processes, cognitive task load, and the role of implicit prosody.
Pratt, Elizabeth and Fernández, Eva M., "Implicit prosody and cue-based retrieval: L1 and L2 agreement and comprehension during reading" (2016). CUNY Academic Works.