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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 May 2014

Ulrike Gut*
University of Münster
Stefanie Pillai
University of Malaya
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Ulrike Gut, English Department, Johannisstr. 12-20, Room 221, 48143 Münster, Germany. E-mail:


Various researchers have shown that second language (L2) speakers have difficulties with marking information structure in English prosodically: They deviate from native speakers not only in terms of pitch accent placement (Grosser, 1997; Gut, 2009; Ramírez Verdugo, 2002) and the type of pitch accent they produce (Wennerstrom, 1994, 1998) but also with regard to the phonetic realization of these pitch accents (Atterer & Ladd, 2004; O’Brien & Gut, 2010). This study investigates the prosodic strategies of first language (L1) Malay speakers of English for marking given and new discourse elements. Ten Malay speakers of English were recorded reading out a 179-word story that contained six given and six new words. Additionally, 10 Malay speakers read aloud a 152-word story containing six given and six new words in Malay. The given-new word pairs were analyzed both auditorily and acoustically in terms of type of pitch accent, syllable duration, phonetic realization of the rise, and pitch peak alignment. The results show that the Malay speakers of English produce longer rises on new than on given discourse elements but do not show different pitch accents, syllable duration, pitch peak alignment, or steepness of rises on the two types of words. The average extent and steepness of the rises as well as the pitch peak alignment are almost identical in Malay and the L2 English of Malay speakers, which suggests direct influence from the L1. However, differences in the type of pitch accents produced and the similarities to the patterns produced by other L2 speakers suggest further influencing factors.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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We would like to thank our two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

This work was supported by a University of Malaya Research Grant (RG220-11HNE). Part of this article was written while the first author was a Senior External Research Fellow at the Freiburg Research Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), whose support she gratefully acknowledges. Part of the research was carried out at the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of Malaya, while the first author was a visiting professor there.



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