The nature and functions of prosody are reviewed, and English and Cantonese are contrasted for this feature of language, as background for two experimental studies. In the experiments, 30 Cantonese speakers with advanced competence in English were tested for their recognition memory of English sentences in which prosody cued meaning contrasts in otherwise identical sentence pairs. The Cantonese speakers ’ memory for the English sentences based on prosodic information was generally poor, both when the contrastive focus was implicit in the experimental task (Experiment 1) and when it was the explicit focus of attention (Experiment 2). The only significant improvement in performance after participants ’ attention was explicitly directed to intonation was on sentences in which prosody cued a marked informational focus (“contrastive stress”) versus an unmarked one (“neutral ” sentence intonation). The investigation leads to suggestions for raising learners ’ awareness of prosody in a second language
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