Faculty Research at Morehead State University

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This project shows that focus and information structure, as indicated by the focus particle “only” and pitch accents, influence syntactic attachment, in contrast to the well-known effects of prosodic boundaries on attachment. One written questionnaire, one completion study, and several auditory questionnaires show that the position of “only” strongly affects attachment preferences in ambiguous sentences, while contrastive pitch accents have smaller effects. The two types of focus marking do not interact but independently impact attachment. These results support a modified version of the Focus Attraction Hypothesis, with ambiguous material drawn to attach to the most important information in a sentence. This research shows that information structure can affect sentence structure as well as discourse coherence.



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