Disambiguate or not? — The Role of Prosody in Unambiguous and Potentially Ambiguous Anaphora Production in Strictly Mandarin Parallel Structures

Luying Hou, Bert Le Bruyn, René Kager


It has been observed that the interpretation of pronouns can depend on their accentuation patterns in parallel sentences as “John hit Bill and then George hit him”, in which ‘him’ refers to Bill when unaccented but shifts to John when accented. While accentuation is widely regarded as a means of disambiguation, some studies have noticed that it also extends to unambiguous anaphors [7–10]. From the perspective of production, however, no strong experimental confirmation was found for the ‘shift’ function of accented pronouns, which is due to the fact that production research has mainly focused on corpora [5, 6]. Hence, the nature of the accent on anaphors still remains obscure. By manipulating referential shift and ambiguity, this study explores the role of prosody in anaphora production in strictly Mandarin parallel structures. The results reveal a significantly higher F0 and longer duration for anaphors in referentially shifted conditions, suggesting that anaphoric accentuation signals a referential change in strictly parallel structures in Mandarin. No evidence was found that ambiguity plays a role in anaphoric accentuation. This finding challenges the general view on accented pronouns and will deepen our understanding on semantics-prosody relationship.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1214

Cite as: Hou, L., Bruyn, B.L., Kager, R. (2017) Disambiguate or not? — The Role of Prosody in Unambiguous and Potentially Ambiguous Anaphora Production in Strictly Mandarin Parallel Structures. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 1393-1397, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1214.


@inproceedings{Hou2017,
  author={Luying Hou and Bert Le Bruyn and René Kager},
  title={Disambiguate or not? — The Role of Prosody in Unambiguous and Potentially Ambiguous Anaphora Production in Strictly Mandarin Parallel Structures},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={1393--1397},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1214},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1214}
}