Distal prosody influences lexical interpretation in online sentence processing

Abstract

Previous work examining prosodic cues in online spoken word recognition has focused primarily on local cues to word identity. However, recent studies have suggested that sentence-level prosodic patterns can also influence the downstream interpretation of lexically ambiguous syllables (Dilley & McAuley, 2008; Dilley, Mattys, & Vinke, 2010). To test the hypothesis that these distal prosody effects are based on expectations about the organization of upcoming material, we conducted a visual world experiment using fixations to competing alternatives such as "pan" and "panda", which differ in the presence or absence of a prosodic boundary after "pan(-)". As predicted, the acoustic properties of distal sentence material affected the proportion of fixations to the monosyllabic competitor beginning 200 ms after the onset of the target word. These findings support the hypothesis that expectations based on perceived prosodic patterns in the distal context influence lexical segmentation and recognition.


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