Tracking the what and why of speakers' choices: prosodic boundaries and the length of constituents

Psychon Bull Rev. 2006 Oct;13(5):854-61. doi: 10.3758/bf03194009.


The rational speaker hypothesis (Clifton, Carlson, & Frazier, 2002) claims that speakers are self-consistent, employing intonation in a manner consistent with their intended message. Preceding a constituent by a prosodic boundary that is not required by the grammar often signals that this constituent is not part of the immediately preceding phrase. However, speakers tend to place prosodic boundaries before and after long constituents. The question is whether prosodic boundaries will have a larger influence on listeners' choice of an analysis when they flank short constituents than when they flank long ones. The results of two listening experiments indicate that they do, suggesting that listeners attend not just to properties of the input signal, but also to the reasons why speakers produce those properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Comprehension*
  • Humans
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Semantics
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Speech Acoustics*
  • Speech Perception*