Immediate use of prosody and context in predicting a syntactic structure

Chie Nakamura*, Manabu Arai, Reiko Mazuka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous studies have reported an effect of prosodic information on parsing but whether prosody can impact even the initial parsing decision is still not evident. In a visual world eye-tracking experiment, we investigated the influence of contrastive intonation and visual context on processing temporarily ambiguous relative clause sentences in Japanese. Our results showed that listeners used the prosodic cue to make a structural prediction before hearing disambiguating information. Importantly, the effect was limited to cases where the visual scene provided an appropriate context for the prosodic cue, thus eliminating the explanation that listeners have simply associated marked prosodic information with a less frequent structure. Furthermore, the influence of the prosodic information was also evident following disambiguating information, in a way that reflected the initial analysis. The current study demonstrates that prosody, when provided with an appropriate context, influences the initial syntactic analysis and also the subsequent cost at disambiguating information. The results also provide first evidence for pre-head structural prediction driven by prosodic and contextual information with a head-final construction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-323
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Nov
Externally publishedYes


  • Anticipatory eye-movements
  • Context
  • Contrastive intonation
  • Prediction
  • Prosody
  • Structural ambiguity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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