5aSC12. Prosodic phrasal structure and lexical interpretation.

Session: Friday Morning, June 20

Author: Shari R. Speer
Location: Speech-Lang.-Hearing, Dole 3031, Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045
Author: Amy Schafer
Location: Speech-Lang.-Hearing, Dole 3031, Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045


In phonological theory, phonological phrases (PPhs) and intonational phrases (IPhs) are distinct levels of prosodic phrasing, with different edge tones, different constraints on well-formedness, and different acoustic properties. Although many studies have demonstrated prosodic effects on syntactic processing, few studies have examined prosodic effects on semantic processing, and the majority of studies have not compared the effects PPhs and IPhs [but see Kjelgaard (1995)]. It is demonstrated that, with respect to the interpretation of lexical, syntactic, and semantic ambiguities, PPhs and IPhs have distinct processing effects. Results will be presented from several experiments testing lexical ambiguities of several types, using both cross-modal naming and end-of-sentence tasks. For example, it will be shown that reanalysis to the subordinate meaning of a polysemous word presented in a neutral context takes longer when the word is in a preceding IPh than in a preceding PPh, for lexically and syntactically identical materials. These results indicate that prosodic phrasing influences the ambiguity resolution process at lexical, syntactic, and semantic levels. It is argued that the sentence comprehension mechanism makes differential use of two levels of prosodic phrasing specified in phonological theory. Implications for current processing models will be discussed. [Work supported by NIMH.]

ASA 133rd meeting - Penn State, June 1997