LINGUIST List 16.6
Mon Jan 10 2005
Diss: Phonetics/Psycholing: Mani: 'Prosody, Syntax...'
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Prosody, Syntax, and the Lexicon in Parsing Ambiguous Sentences
Message 1: Prosody, Syntax, and the Lexicon in Parsing Ambiguous Sentences
From: Nivedita Mani <nivedita.manistcatz.ox.ac.uk>
Subject: Prosody, Syntax, and the Lexicon in Parsing Ambiguous Sentences
Institution: University of Oxford
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005
Author: Nivedita Mani
Dissertation Title: Prosody, Syntax, and the Lexicon in Parsing Ambiguous
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
John S Coleman
My DPhil tests the early incorporation of prosodic information during on-line
processing of ambiguous word pairs such as Packing cases. The two alternatives
are syntactically ambiguous and prosodically distinct. In an on-line,
cross-modal, response-time task, I tested subjects' responses to appropriate and
inappropriate verbs following the ambiguous word pairs. Subjects were able to
make accurate parses of the stimuli. Since the word pairs were syntactically
ambiguous, this provides evidence in favour of the early incorporation of
prosodic information in parsing.
In Experiment 2, I swapped the duration, f0, and amplitude of the noun phrase
versions with the verb phrase versions. If prosodic information were guiding
parsing, then swapping the prosody of the alternatives should change subjects'
parses of the stimuli. I found that subjects interpreted the noun phrases as
verb phrases and the verb phrases as noun phrases. Only the prosodic content of
the stimuli could have guided subjects' parsing towards the parses intended by
the cross-synthesised prosody. This provides additional evidence in favour of
early prosodic processing.
Acoustic analysis of the speech suggested that the two forms were marked by
differences in duration, f0, and amplitude. In Experiment 3, I tested whether
subjects' ability to differentiate the two forms would be affected by flattening
the f0 of the word pairs. I found that subjects' ability to disambiguate the
word pairs was reduced by flattening the f0 of the stimuli. Again, this provides
evidence in favour of f0 guiding parsing.
Prior research argues that prosodic information is not perceptually salient in
the absence of lexical information (Toepel and Alter: 2002). Therefore,
Experiment 4 tested the parsing of delexicalised versions of the same stimuli. I
found that subjects continued to make accurate parses of the stimuli. This
indicates that prosody can guide parsing even without lexical information.
The results of my four experiments provide strong evidence in favour of the
early incorporation of prosodic information in parsing. Subjects' parsing was
tested before the completion of the clauses that the fragments were taken from,
and before the presentation of the main verb of the sentences. These results
indicate that prosodic information can influence on-line parsing even in the
presence of contrary syntactic and spectral preferences and in the absence of
lexical information. These results have serious implications on models of
modular and interactive processing. I consider revisions of both these models in
order to allow the early incorporation of prosodic information in processing.
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