Utilization of prosodic information in syntactic ambiguity resolution

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Two self paced listening experiments examined the role of prosodic phrasing in syntactic ambiguity resolution. In Experiment 1, the stimuli consisted of early closure sentences (e.g., "While the parents watched, the child sang a song.") containing transitive-biased subordinate verbs paired with plausible direct objects or intransitive-biased subordinate verbs paired with implausible direct objects. Experiment 2 also contained early closure sentences with transitively and intransitive-biased subordinate verbs, but the subordinate verbs were always followed by plausible direct objects. In both experiments, there were two prosodic conditions. In the subject-biased prosodic condition, an intonational phrase boundary marked the clausal boundary following the subordinate verb. In the object-biased prosodic condition, the clause boundary was unmarked. The results indicate that lexical and prosodic cues interact at the subordinate verb and plausibility further affects processing at the ambiguous noun. Results are discussed with respect to models of the role of prosody in sentence comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-374
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010



  • Plausibility
  • Prosody
  • Syntactic ambiguity resolution
  • Verb transitivity bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics

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