Interpreting pitch accents in online comprehension: H* vs. L+H*

Duane G. Watson, Michael K. Tanenhaus, Christine A. Gunlogson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the presence or absence of a pitch accent clearly can play an important role in signaling the discourse and information structure of an utterance, whether the form of an accent determines the type of information it conveys is more controversial. We used an eye-tracking paradigm to investigate whether H*, which has been argued to signal new information, evokes different eye fixations than L+H*, which has been argued to signal the presence of contrast. Our results demonstrate that although listeners interpret these accents differently, their interpretive domains overlap. L+H* creates a strong bias toward contrast referents whereas H* is compatible with both new and contrast referents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1232-1244
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Accent
  • Discourse
  • Language
  • Pragmatics
  • Prosody

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Interpreting pitch accents in online comprehension: H* vs. L+H*'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this