Speech Prosody 2004

Nara, Japan
March 23-26, 2004

Does Prosodic-Foot Disyllabicity Hold a Default Status in Mandarin Speech Perception?

Ivan Chow

University of Toronto, Canada

An acoustic experiment was conducted to investigate the perceptual processing of native Mandarin speakers in syntactic ambiguity resolution1. The statistical majority of disyllabic words in modern Chinese and the prosodic theory of Binary Foot Formation in Mandarin point to the stipulation that the disyllabic prosodic feet have a special 'default' status in the prosodic structure of Mandarin. In a situation where neither contextual nor acoustic information is available, given an utterance that can be parsed into disyllabic or tri-syllabic prosodic feet without violating syntactic constituency, native speakers of Mandarin may be biased towards the disyllabic organization. Although experimental results show that Mandarin speakers are more likely to parse the utterance into one of two possible syntactic structures rather than simply recognizing it as ambiguous, utterances organized into disyllabic feet are not favoured over ones organized in tri-syllabic feet. A fortiori, there is no indication that the quantitative identity of the prosodic feet is taken into account in the perception and parsing of syntactically ambiguous sentences.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Chow, Ivan (2004): "Does prosodic-foot disyllabicity hold a default status in Mandarin speech perception?", In SP-2004, 697-700.