How Prosody Influences Sentence Comprehension
Prosody, or the tune and rhythm of speech, affects the interpretation and comprehension of sentences. This article first summarizes the prosodic system of English and then reviews research on how prosodic boundaries and pitch accents affect sentence processing. In general, prosodic boundaries usually influence attachment decisions, as they are seen to reflect syntactic structure,while pitch accents relate to the focus and information structure of a sentence. However, neither mapping is simple, because multiple prosodic contours are possible for any particular sentence.Prosody tends to be influential rather than decisive in resolving syntactic ambiguity.
Language and Linguistics Compass, Vol. 3, No. 5 (2009), 1188-1200.