Interspeech'2005 - Eurospeech

Lisbon, Portugal
September 4-8, 2005

Does Narrow Focus Activate Alternative Referents?

Bettina Braun (1), Andrea Weber (2), Matthew Crocker (2)

(1) Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, The Netherlands; (2) Saarland University, Germany

Narrow focus refers to accent placement that forces one interpretation of a sentence, which is then often perceived contrastively. Narrow focus is formalised in terms of alternative sets, i.e. contextually or situationally salient alternatives. In this paper, we investigate whether this model is valid also in human utterance processing. We present an eye-tracking experiment to study listeners' expectations (i.e. eye-movements) with respect to upcoming referents. Some of the objects contrast in colour with objects that were previously referred to, others do not; the objects are referred to with either a narrow focus on the colour adjective or with broad focus on the noun. Results show that narrow focus on the adjective increases early fixations to contrastive referents. Narrow focus hence activates alternative referents in human utterance processing.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Braun, Bettina / Weber, Andrea / Crocker, Matthew (2005): "Does narrow focus activate alternative referents?", In INTERSPEECH-2005, 1709-1712.