Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Syntactic Structure Guides Prosody in Temporarily Ambiguous Sentences

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A pair of speaking and listening studies investigated the prosody of sentences with temporary Object/Clause and Late/Early Closure ambiguities. Speakers reliably produced prosodic cues that allowed listeners to disambiguate Late/Early Closure sentences, but only infrequently produced prosody that disambiguated Object/Clause sentences, as shown by the results of listening studies. The two continuations for Object/Clause sentences were not pronounced with identical prosody, but the differences in their productions were not helpful to listeners. Speakers’ different performance on the two sentence types is traced to their different syntactic structures. These results illustrate the importance of the syntax–prosody mapping in production and test the prosodic predictions of syntax–prosody models like that of Watson and Gibson (2004).