From: Masako Hirotani <masako_hirotanicarleton.ca>
Subject: Prosody and LF Interpretation: Processing Japanese wh-questions
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Institution: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005
Author: Masako Hirotani
Dissertation Title: Prosody and LF Interpretation: Processing Japanese wh-questions
Subject Language(s): Japanese (jpn)
Lyn Frazier (Chair)
Elisabeth O Selkirk
Kyle B Johnson
This thesis investigates how prosodic phrasing influences listeners'
interpretation of scopally ambiguous wh-questions in Japanese. It focuses
on sentences such as that in (1), in which the wh-phrase can take either
embedded or matrix scope:
(1)[CP [IP John-wa [CP Mary-ga nani-o katta-ka] kikimasita]-ka]?
John-TOP Mary-NOM what-ACC bought-Q asked-Q
'Did John ask what Mary bought?' (Embedded scope) or 'What did John ask
whether Mary bought?' (Matrix scope)
I argue that the comprehension of the wh-phrase is guided by the prosodic
phrasing of the sentence, as specified in the Scope Prosody Correspondence
(2) Scope Prosody Correspondence (SPC)
The scope of a term X should not extend beyond the Major (phonological)
Phrase (MaP) containing X.
The SPC predicts that there is a strong bias for an embedded scope
interpretation when a MaP boundary appears after the embedded Q-marker in
(1). Without such a prosodic boundary, the SPC predicts that both embedded
and matrix scope interpretations are equally available. The results of
off-line comprehension experiments supported these predictions of the SPC.
They also indicated that that prosodic phrasing rather than pitch
compression is the primary determinant of listeners' scope assignments. In
addition, it was shown that an embedded scope interpretation was induced by
the prosodic boundary at the embedded Q-marker, not by the focus
interpretation of the matrix verb.
Further experiments showed that the SPC also applies to unambiguous
wh-questions and to other sentences containing negative polarity items or
quantifiers (e.g., interaction between negation and negative polarity sika,
relative scope of quantifiers), but not to sentences lacking scope-relevant
items. These results suggest that the SPC is not a construction specific
principle effective only in wh-questions but rather a general principle
that listeners use when they process sentences containing all and only
scope relevant items.
Finally, speakers of Tokyo Japanese sometimes inserted a MaP boundary after
the embedded Q-marker, and sometimes didn't, for both scope interpretations
of the wh-phrase. In contrast to the comprehension results, in production,
the presence of a prosodic boundary after the embedded Q-marker was not
reserved for embedded questions except when the two structures were
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