Speech Prosody 2008
When we hear the sentence he respects the butcher of the doctor who gains weight each year, it is not clear whether the appreciated butcher has put on weight or whether it is the doctor who is a bit heavier. Without additional information, the attachment of the relative clause (RC) is ambiguous, a case of structural ambiguity that is found in many languages, including English and French. Although such phrases are usually disambiguated by context, it has been shown that speakers and listeners can disambiguate several structural ambiguities by prosodic means . Yet, this body of literature has concentrated almost exclusively on the ambiguity resolution of a small set of structures in English. The current study examines the prosodic strategies of final lengthening and F0 rise used to disambiguate the attachment of a RC to a complex noun phrase (NP) as employed by three native speakers (NS) of both Hexagonal and Quebecois French. Participants completed two tasks, one in which the intended interpretation of the RC was indicated through context and the other a more explicit minimal pairs task. Almost all participants employ a similar pattern of final lengthening to differentiate between the two interpretations of the RC, whereas results from F0 rise are mixed, with several patterns emerging.
Bibliographic reference. Edmonds, Amanda / Fultz, Audrey Liljestrand / Killam, Jason (2008): "Prosody and the production of ambiguous relative clauses in French", In SP-2008, 437-440.