Date of Degree

10-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Linguistics

Advisor

Janet D. Fodor

Subject Categories

Linguistics

Keywords

center-embedded, comprehension, contrastive focus, phonological phrase, prosody

Abstract

A production and comprehension-judgment experiment examined the relationship between prosody and comprehensibility in doubly center-embedded relative clause constructions in English. Lexically identical sentences with contrastive emphasis on NP1, NP2, or VP1, and a baseline version for comparison, were read aloud for recording and judged for comprehensibility. Contrast on NP2 and VP1 yielded higher comprehensibility judgments compared to baseline than contrast on NP1 compared to baseline. This was contrary to the prediction that contrast on NP1 would encourage the prosodic pattern NP1 || RC || VP3, which in previous work has been reported to be optimal for comprehension. Several explanations for this outcome are considered, including the possibility that contrastive focus does not reliably induce a following prosodic boundary if phrase lengths are not supportive of it.

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Linguistics Commons

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