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ERIC Number: EJ950430
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 31
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 49
ISSN: ISSN-0169-0965
Intonational Phrasing Is Constrained by Meaning, Not Balance
Breen, Mara; Watson, Duane G.; Gibson, Edward
Language and Cognitive Processes, v26 n10 p1532-1562 2011
This paper evaluates two classes of hypotheses about how people prosodically segment utterances: (1) meaning-based proposals, with a focus on Watson and Gibson's (2004) proposal, according to which speakers tend to produce boundaries before and after long constituents; and (2) balancing proposals, according to which speakers tend to produce boundaries at evenly spaced intervals. In order to evaluate these proposals, we elicited naive speakers' productions of sentences systematically varying in the length of three postverbal constituents: a direct object, an indirect object (a prepositional phrase), and a verb phrase modifier, as in the sentence, The teacher assigned the chapter (on local history) to the students (of social science) yesterday/before the first midterm exam. Mixed-effects modelling was used to analyse the pattern of prosodic boundaries in these sentences, where boundaries were defined either in terms of acoustic measures (word duration and silence) or following the ToBI (Tones and Break Indices) prosodic annotation scheme. Watson and Gibson's (2004) meaning-based proposal, with the additional constraint that boundary predictions are evaluated with respect to local sentence context rather than the entire sentence, significantly outperformed the balancing alternatives. (Contains 5 tables, 4 footnotes and 2 figures.)
Psychology Press. Available from: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 325 Chestnut Street Suite 800, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 800-354-1420; Fax: 215-625-2940; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A