Cognitive components of foreign word stress processing difficulty in speakers of a native language with non-contrastive stress

Ferenc Honbolygó, Andrea Kóbor, V. Csépe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Stress “deafness” is a difficulty in the detection of stress pattern changes of second language (L2) words. This study investigated the influence of cognitive factors and L2 proficiency on the processing of L2 stress. Methodology: Fifty-four native speakers of Hungarian, a language with non-contrastive stress, participated in the study; the participants were categorized as not speaking German or having a proficiency at the intermediate or advanced level. They had to recall sequences with increasing length consisting of German pseudowords that differed in either their phonemes (phoneme task) or stress patterns (stress task). Cognitive factors measured included working memory, phonological awareness and inhibitory control. Data and Analysis: The accuracy data obtained in the sequence recall task was analysed with generalized linear mixed modelling. Two separate analyses were performed to investigate the presence of stress “deafness” and the effect of cognitive factors. Findings: Results showed that the stress task led to lower performance than the phoneme task, irrespective of L2 proficiency. Furthermore, the analysis showed different cognitive factors contributing to the performance in the tasks: in the phoneme task, it was working memory, phonological awareness and inhibitory control, while in the stress task, it was only working memory and phonological awareness but not the inhibitory control. Originality: This is the first study to provide evidence about the cognitive background of the stress “deafness” effect, and to suggest the differential role of inhibitory control in phoneme and stress processing. Implications: These findings demonstrate the robustness of the stress “deafness” effect in a language with non-contrastive stress, provide evidence of the effect being independent of L2 proficiency and suggest that speakers of languages with non-contrastive stress do not have the necessary cognitive basis to form accurate L2 stress representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-380
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2019



  • Inhibitory control
  • phonological awareness
  • second language learning
  • stress “deafness”
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this