8th International Conference on Spoken Language Processing

Jeju Island, Korea
October 4-8, 2004

Effects of Prosodic Boundaries on Ambiguous Syntactic Clause Boundaries in Japanese

Shari Speer, Soyoung Kang

Ohio State University, USA

We report two experiments investigating the effects of prosodic boundaries on resolving ambiguous syntactic structures in Japanese. The head-final, pro-drop nature of this language generates abundant syntactic attachment ambiguity for sentences containing relative clauses. Syntactic attachment preferences for two sentence types, with differing head nouns modified by relative clauses, were assessed in a written study. Results indicated that readers retrieved one clear meaning for one type whereas the other type remained generally ambiguous. A spoken sentence comprehension study was conducted using these sentences, each produced with two prosodic structures. Results demonstrated the crucial use of prosodic boundary information in determining syntactic clause boundary locations. Most importantly, prosodic boundaries affected the way listeners posited empty pronouns for the subject of main or subordinate predicates. These results demonstrated the fundamental importance of prosodic phrasal structure to the assignment of syntactic constituency, particularly in the case of a head-final, pro-drop language.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Speer, Shari / Kang, Soyoung (2004): "Effects of prosodic boundaries on ambiguous syntactic clause boundaries in Japanese", In INTERSPEECH-2004, 3025-3028.