The Prosody of Discourse Structure and Content in the Production of Persian EFL Learners

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Imam Khomeini International University

2 Payame Noor University


The present research addressed the prosodic realization of global and local text structure and content in the spoken discourse data produced by Persian EFL learners. Two newspaper articles were analyzed using Rhetorical Structure Theory. Based on these analyses, the global structure in terms of hierarchical level, the local structure in terms of the relative importance of text segments and the rhetorical relations between text segments were identified. The texts were read aloud by 18 high-proficient Persian learners of English. We measured pause durations preceding segments, F0-maxima (as a correlate of pitch range) and speech rates of the segments. Results suggested that speakers give prosodic indications about hierarchical level by means of variations in pause duration but not pitch range or speech rate. Furthermore, it was found that speakers articulate causally related segments with shorter in between pauses and at faster rate than non-causally related segments. However, they did not vary any of the prosodic measures to distinguish between important vs. unimportant segments. Overall, the results suggest that (1) variations in pause duration and speech rate are not used systematically by Persian EFL speakers as fully structured cuing devices to indicate organization of spoken discourse, importance of sentences and meaning relations between sentences; (2) pitch change structuring as a cue to discourse prosodic prominence is completely absent in Persian learners' text production. The results are not consistent with earlier findings of prosodic realization of text structure and content in English native speakers' discourse data, but are in line with those obtained for non-native spoken discourse.   


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