Using Prosody to Discover Word Order Alternations in a Novel Language

Anouschka Foltz, Sarah Cooper, Tamsin M. McKelvey


Native speakers of a language can use prosodic phrasing to disambiguate syntactically ambiguous sentences [1]. The current paper explores whether prosodic phrasing can help learners determine within-clause word order differences in a new language. Unlike many previous studies, we did not train participants in an artificial language, but exploited word order differences that occur in German. Native English speakers with no knowledge of German were trained with simple main clause sentences as well as complex sentences containing a subordinate clause. During training, prosodic phrasing of complex sentences either aligned or did not align with the sentences’ clause structure. The results from two experiments showed that the non-aligned prosodic phrasing helps learners discover clause internal word order differences in German, but only if syntactic variability in the test sessions is low. Overall, the results suggest that learners can exploit prosodic structure to learn word order alternations in certain contexts.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1183

Cite as: Foltz, A., Cooper, S., McKelvey, T.M. (2019) Using Prosody to Discover Word Order Alternations in a Novel Language. Proc. Interspeech 2019, 3554-3558, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1183.


@inproceedings{Foltz2019,
  author={Anouschka Foltz and Sarah Cooper and Tamsin M. McKelvey},
  title={{Using Prosody to Discover Word Order Alternations in a Novel Language}},
  year=2019,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2019},
  pages={3554--3558},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1183},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2019-1183}
}