Recognition memory reveals just how CONTRASTIVE contrastive accenting really is

Scott H. Fraundorf, Duane G. Watson, Aaron S. Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effects of pitch accenting on memory were investigated in three experiments. Participants listened to short recorded discourses that contained contrast sets with two items (e.g. British scientists and French scientists); a continuation specified one item from the set. Pitch accenting on the critical word in the continuation was manipulated between non-contrastive (H* in the ToBI system) and contrastive (L+H*). On subsequent recognition memory tests, the L+H* accent increased hits to correct statements and correct rejections of the contrast item (Experiments 1-3), but did not impair memory for other parts of the discourse (Experiment 2). L+H* also did not facilitate correct rejections of lures not in the contrast set (Experiment 3), indicating that contrastive accents do not simply strengthen the representation of the target item. These results suggest comprehenders use pitch accenting to encode and update information about multiple elements in a contrast set.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-386
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Discourse
  • Focus
  • Language comprehension
  • Pitch accenting
  • Recognition memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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