Speech Prosody 2012

Shanghai, China
May 22-25, 2012

Prosodic Effects on Garden-path Sentences

Li-Hsin Ning (1), Chilin Shih (1,2)

(1) Department of Linguistics; (2) Departments of EALC, Linguistics, and The Beckman Institute
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

A garden-path sentence has temporary ambiguity that a reader or listener need to resolve. Prosody is well-known to have effects on sentence comprehension so it is expected that it will affect the interpretation of garden-path sentences. However, in an auditory comprehension test with natural speech, the garden-path effect may be unclear because a listener can typically resolve the ambiguity and recover from the garden-path effect when the sentence is completed. Therefore, this paper investigates ways to enhance or suppress gardenpath interpretation in Mandarin by manipulating phrasing with pause insertion and pitch reset. The results show that long pause at the garden-path site enhances the garden-path (wrong) interpretation which cannot be undone by pitch reset that encourages the correct phrasing. The most effective way in prosody to enhance the gardenpath effect in Mandarin requires both long pause and high pitch reset.

Index Terms: garden-path effect, pause duration, pitch reset, reaction time, sentence comprehension, Mandarin

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Ning, Li-Hsin / Shih, Chilin (2012): "Prosodic effects on garden-path sentences", In SP-2012, 282-285.