In Swedish, speech melody is constantly used to predict grammatical structure, both at clause and word level, du to the existence of word accents in all words. This project develops a new method involving a game application for second language speakers to learn to use word accents. It will also investigate changes in brain activity associated with the learning.
This innovative, interdisciplinary project will develop a game application for entertaining and efficient learning of a ubiquitous but difficult feature of Swedish language melody: word accents. Learning using the game will be tested in response time studies. Brain potential recordings will evaluate whether second language speakers come to use the same brain mechanisms for processing word accents as native speakers. Word accents consist of tones on word stems similar to Chinese word tones. However, in Swedish it is the suffix attached to the stem that determines which tone the stem will have rather than the lexical meaning of the word. Therefore, the same stem can have different tones with different suffixes, e.g. a low tone on fisk- in fisk-en ‘fish-the’, but a high tone on the same stem in fisk-ar ‘fish-es’. Native speakers use the tone on the stem to unconsciously predict how the word will end, thus facilitating rapid and efficient understanding. Most second language learners do not dominate this important principle of Swedish language processing. This can lead to unnecessarily effortful communication and misunderstandings. The project takes advantage of the predictive nature of word accents in developing a game application for word accent learning which will be both efficient and fun to play.