Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

April Ginther

Committee Member 1

Mary Niepokuj

Committee Member 2

Margie Berns

Committee Member 3

Amy Neel


English prosody works as a structural and semantic glue that establishes relationships among words and phrases within a sentence, and among sentences within a larger discourse. This dissertation hypothesizes and demonstrates an association between acoustic measurements of English prosody and holistic measures of English proficiency. To test this hypothesis, acoustic data was used from 10 examinees each of low, medium, and high oral English proficiency groups of L1 Chinese speakers who took Purdue’s Oral English Proficiency Test (OEPT). Prosodic measurements of duration, F0, and intensity were gathered from adjacent function and content words in the OEPT audio data and compared with holistic OEPT scores. An ordered logistic regression found a significant difference (p = 2.00e-16) among the three groups for how groups used durational differences between adjacent function and content words. Parallels of mental mapping of information are proposed between acoustic treatment of function and content words and the suppression and enhancement mechanisms of Gernsbacher’s (1997a) Structure Building Framework.