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LINGUIST List 23.4479

Fri Oct 26 2012

Diss: Cognitive Science/ Phonology/ Psycholing/ German: Kentner: 'Linguistic Rhythm and Sentence Comprehension in Reading'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 25-Oct-2012
From: Gerrit Kentner <gerritlingua.uni-frankfurt.de>
Subject: Linguistic Rhythm and Sentence Comprehension in Reading
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Institution: Universität Frankfurt am Main
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Gerrit Kentner

Dissertation Title: Linguistic Rhythm and Sentence Comprehension in Reading

Dissertation URL: http://user.uni-frankfurt.de/~kentner/kentnerdiss.html

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science

Subject Language(s): German (deu)

Dissertation Director:
Shravan Vasishth
Caroline Féry

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation is concerned with the role of prosody and, specifically,
linguistic rhythm for the syntactic processing of written text. My aim is to
put forward, provide evidence for, and defend the following claims:

While processing written sentences, readers make use of their
phonological knowledge and generate a mental prosodic-phonological
representation of the printed text.

The mental prosodic representation is constructed in accordance with
a syntactic description of the written string. Constraints at the interface
of syntax and phonology provide for the compatibility of the syntactic
analysis and the (mental) prosodic rendition of the sentence.

The implicit prosodic structure readers impose on the written string
entails phonological phrasing and accentuation, but also lower level
prosodic features such as linguistic rhythm which emerges from the
pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.

Phonological well-formedness conditions accompany and influence the
process of syntactic parsing in reading from the very beginning, i.e.
already at the level of recognizing lexical categories. At points of
underspecified syntactic structure, syntactic parsing decisions may be
made on the basis of phonological constraints alone.

In reading, the implicit local lexical-prosodic information may be more
readily available to the processing mechanism than higher-level
discourse structural representations and consequently may have more
immediate influence on sentence processing.

The process of sentence comprehension in reading is conditioned by
factors that are geared towards sentence production.

The evidence from three reading experiments (oral reading and silent
reading with eyetracking) supports these points and suggests a model
of grammatical competence in which constraints from various domains
(syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse structure, and phonology)
interact in providing the possible structural, i.e. grammatical
descriptions. The performance data from the experiments are modeled
as an incremental constraint satisfaction process in the framework of
an Optimality Theoretic parsing account. Solely making use of
constraints derived from competence grammar, the model is capable of
capturing the data and advocates the simultaneous application of
syntactic, prosodic and syntax-phonology interface constraints in
incremental processing. The model predicts that, in the case of
syntactic indetermination, weak prosodic constraints may decide about
syntactic ambiguity resolution. The performance-compatible OT
grammar integrates the processes of syntactic parsing and
prosodification in reading, hence dissolving the strict separation of
language production and comprehension. At the same time the OT
model endorses a bidirectional relationship between syntax and
phonology in grammar.

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