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A talk will be given by Dr Heather Kember from Western Sydney University in the CLaS-CCD Research Colloquium Series for 2016


Date: 31 March 2016

A talk will be given by Dr Heather Kember from Western Sydney University in the CLaS-CCD Research Colloquium Series for 2016. The Colloquium Series provides an opportunity for national and international researchers to present talks and meet with staff,  HDR and senior undergraduate students, and aims to promote collaborative research links across Faculties within the University and with industry.

Date: Tuesday, 12th April 2016, 12noon - 1:00pm

Venue: The Australian Hearing Hub, Level 3, Room 3.610, Macquarie University

Speaker: Dr Heather Kember, Western Sydney University

Host: Distinguished Professor Katherine Demuth

Topic: Processing benefits for focused words in Korean and English 


Language specific differences exist in the way prosodic salience is marked: for example in English a pitch accent is used, whereas in Korean it is marked with accentual phrasing. While it is well established that salient words receive processing advantages in English (e.g. remembered better, recognised faster) little is known for languages with different methods for producing focus. In this talk I will present two experiments that compare the effect of syntactic and prosodic focus on recognition memory in Korean and English. For Experiment 1, we devised sentences in Korean with target words in one of four conditions: prosodic focus, syntactic focus, prosodic + syntactic focus, and no focus as a control. Korean listeners heard blocks of 10 sentences, then were presented visually with words and asked whether or not they remembered hearing them. Overall, words with focus were recognised significantly faster and more accurately than unfocused words. In addition, words with syntactic focus or syntactic + prosodic focus were recognised faster than words with prosodic focus alone. In Experiment 2 we tested the same four conditions in English and found a pattern of results that mirrored the Korean findings. These findings argue for a language general principle of processing advantages for focused words, independent of the way in which it is expressed.


Heather completed her PhD in 2012, supervised by Karen Croot at the University of Sydney investigating cognitive processes involved in speech production in Mandarin Chinese and English. Her first postdoctoral position was in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northeastern University. There, she was awarded the Sir Keith Murdoch Research Fellowship from the American Australian Association for work investigating the use of prosody as a tool for improving intelligibility in second language learners. She is now based at the MARCS Institute and is a member of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. Her current research work examines the role that prosody plays in speech processing across languages.

More information...

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University