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Journal Article

Is pitch accent necessary for comprehension by native Japanese speakers? - An ERP investigation

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Tamaoka, K., Saito, N., Kiyama, S., Timmer, K., & Verdonschot, R. G. (2014). Is pitch accent necessary for comprehension by native Japanese speakers? - An ERP investigation. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 27(1), 31-40. doi:10.1016/j.jneuroling.2013.08.001.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-E317-E
Not unlike the tonal system in Chinese, Japanese habitually attaches pitch accents to the production of words. However, in contrast to Chinese, few homophonic word-pairs are really distinguished by pitch accents (Shibata & Shibata, 1990). This predicts that pitch accent plays a small role in lexical selection for Japanese language comprehension. The present study investigated whether native Japanese speakers necessarily use pitch accent in the processing of accent-contrasted homophonic pairs (e.g., ame [LH] for 'candy' and ame [HI] for 'rain') measuring electroencephalographic (EEG) potentials. Electrophysiological evidence (i.e., N400) was obtained when a word was semantically incorrect for a given context but not for incorrectly accented homophones. This suggests that pitch accent indeed plays a minor role when understanding Japanese. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.