Disambiguating the scope of negation by prosodic cues in three varieties of German

Baumann, S. and Rathcke, T. (2013) Disambiguating the scope of negation by prosodic cues in three varieties of German. Lingua, 131, pp. 29-48. (doi: 10.1016/j.lingua.2013.03.004)

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Two perception experiments were conducted with subjects from Kiel, Düsseldorf and Vienna to investigate the role prosody plays (a) in resolving scope of negation ambiguities and (b) in judging the strength of phrasal breaks in German. The prosodic means tested were pause, intonation contour and peak alignment. Results reveal that the relevance of the cues varies depending on the task: for the (semantic) scope disambiguation task, intonation contour proves to be the most decisive factor, whereas presence of pause turns out to be most influential for the (metalinguistic) phrasing task. This result implies that the question of how German listeners resolve scope ambiguities cannot simply be attributed to the presence or absence of a phrasal break between a main and a subordinate clause. It rather seems to depend on a more general perception of ‘cohesion’ between the two clauses as indicated by prosodic means. Flat hat contours and late peak alignment patterns lead to a higher level of cohesion and an increase in wide scope interpretations, whereas pointed hats with early peak accents are typical of narrow scope readings. The results further reveal a significant difference between the varieties due to an increased number of narrow scope readings in Viennese listeners. Since Viennese German displays later peaks than Northern varieties, this outcome suggests that Viennese subjects interpret (late) peaks as earlier than listeners from Kiel and Düsseldorf.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Rathcke, Dr Tamara
Authors: Baumann, S., and Rathcke, T.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Journal Name:Lingua

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