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Can intonational phrase structure be primed (like syntactic structure)?


Konopka,  Agnieszka E.
Psychology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;

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Tooley, K., Konopka, A. E., & Watson, D. (2014). Can intonational phrase structure be primed (like syntactic structure)? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(2), 348-363. doi:10.1037/a0034900.

In 3 experiments, we investigated whether intonational phrase structure can be primed. In all experiments, participants listened to sentences in which the presence and location of intonational phrase boundaries were manipulated such that the recording included either no intonational phrase boundaries, a boundary in a structurally dispreferred location, a boundary in a preferred location, or boundaries in both locations. In Experiment 1, participants repeated the sentences to test whether they would reproduce the prosodic structure they had just heard. Experiments 2 and 3 used a prime–target paradigm to evaluate whether the intonational phrase structure heard in the prime sentence might influence that of a novel target sentence. Experiment 1 showed that participants did repeat back sentences that they had just heard with the original intonational phrase structure, yet Experiments 2 and 3 found that exposure to intonational phrase boundaries on prime trials did not influence how a novel target sentence was prosodically phrased. These results suggest that speakers may retain the intonational phrasing of a sentence, but this effect is not long-lived and does not generalize across unrelated sentences. Furthermore, these findings provide no evidence that intonational phrase structure is formulated during a planning stage that is separate from other sources of linguistic information.