8th International Conference on Spoken Language Processing

Jeju Island, Korea
October 4-8, 2004

Functions of Intonation Boundaries during Spoken Language Comprehension in English

Allison Blodgett

Ohio State University, USA

Two experiments investigated the interaction of intonation boundaries and verb bias during spoken language comprehension in English. An online cross-modal naming task proved to be sensitive to the interaction of prosodic, syntactic, and semantic representations during resolution of a temporary syntactic closure ambiguity (e.g., Whenever the lady checks the room...) The results supported previous claims that intonation boundaries trigger semantic wrap-up [1] and provided new evidence that they trigger syntactic wrap-up as well. When an intonation boundary occurred at a transitive-bias verb, wrap-up resulted in a transitive interpretation and an intransitive structure. Resolution of the conflict depended on the prosodic representation associated with the structurally ambiguous noun phrase and its predictability as a direct object. While intonation boundary location can determine the initial syntactic structure for this closure ambiguity regardless of verb bias, disambiguation for transitive-bias verbs seems to depend in part on other prosodic and lexical factors.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Blodgett, Allison (2004): "Functions of intonation boundaries during spoken language comprehension in English", In INTERSPEECH-2004, 2997-3000.