Prosody and sentence disambiguation in European Portuguese


  • Marina Vigário Universidade do Minho


Our investigation focuses on several types of structural ambiguity in European Portuguese. The materials include sentences with set-divider adverbs ambiguous as to the direction of syntactic attachment, adjunct and complement PPs ambiguous as to the level of syntactic embedding, nonrestrictive clauses with local and non-local possible antecedents, and relative clauses ambiguous as to their restrictive/non-restrictive meaning. Besides providing a prosodic description of sentences with these various sorts of ambiguity, the relation between prosody and syntactic structure is addressed. It is concluded that structural ambiguity is not always cued by prosody, and it may be resolved by prosodic means that are optional. Additionally, some options on sentence partition in intonational phrases are only available under some interpretations, and in specific configurations I-breaks may not be inserted (namely, between a head and an adjacent complement or modifier). In all cases studied intonational phrase level properties play a crucial role in sentence disambiguation. An intonational phrase boundary after set-divider adverbs indicates leftattachment and between a constituent and the preceding material implies non-local attachment. These facts are seen to follow in a principled way from the conditions on the formation of intonational phrases.


Prosody, intonation, prosodic phrasing, syntax-phonology interface, disambiguation




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