University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Abstract: MacDonald

Remnants of a speaker’s first language (L1) are often present on features of their second language (L2). This paper investigates how native speakers of Korean acquire English intonational patterns on wh-questions and yes/no questions. Specifically, does the L1 intonation system affect L2 intonation patterns and, if yes, to what extent? Does a higher proficiency in the L2 improve intonation?

English and Korean intonational structures differ on numerous levels. The f0 contour of an English Intonational Phrase is determined by pitch accents which are linked to stressed syllables while in Korean it is determined by a series of Accentual Phrase tones. In English, the type and location of the pitch accents change a sentence’s meaning, while in Korean it is the location of the Accentual Phrase phrase boundary that changes the meaning (Jun & Oh 1996).

In additional to different intonational structures, English and Korean also differ as to how they distinguish between yes/no and wh-questions. In Korean, yes/no and wh-questions are syntactically the same. The only way in which they differ is in their intonational phrasing.

I will present preliminary experimental data from native speakers of Korean who are at various stages of acquiring English. I will also compare the intonational patterns to those of native English speakers and Korean L1 speakers. My preliminary results show that two of the native Korean participants do not seem to be aware of English intonational patterns, while the third (more advanced) speaker shows native-like intonational patterns in some English questions.


Jun, S.-A. & M. Oh. (1996). A prosodic analysis of three types of wh-phrases in Korean.

Language and Speech, 39(1): 37-61.