Speech Prosody 2010

Chicago, IL, USA
May 10-14, 2010

Relative Prosodic Boundary Strength and Prior Bias in Disambiguation

Michael Wagner (1), Serena Crivellaro (2)

(1) McGill University, Montreal, Canada; (2) Cornell University '09, USA

Previous research found that the relative rather than absolute size of prosodic boundaries is crucial in disambiguating attachment ambiguities [1, 2]. Furthermore, relative categorical differences matter whereas merely quantitative ones do not [1]. This paper presents further evidence that relative boundary strength is indeed crucial, but, contrary to earlier findings, gradient quantitative differences affect parsing decisions in gradient ways. Furthermore, varying the plausibility of a given reading in a given context shifts the perceptual boundaries between different phrasings such that quantitatively stronger prosodic cues are necessary to counter-act a prior bias against it.

Index Terms: prosodic boundaries, ambiguity, relative boundary strength, gradience, rational listener


  1. K. Carlson, J. Charles Clifton, and L. Frazier, “Prosodic boundaries in adjunct attachment,” Journal of Memory and Language, vol. 45, pp. 58–81, 2001.
  2. C. J. Clifton, K. Carlson, and L. Frazier, “Informative prosodic boundaries,” Language and Speech, vol. 45, pp. 87–114, 2002.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Wagner, Michael / Crivellaro, Serena (2010): "Relative prosodic boundary strength and prior bias in disambiguation", In SP-2010, paper 238.