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  Pitch accents create dissociable syntactic and semantic expectations during sentence processing

van der Burght, C., Friederici, A. D., Goucha, T., & Hartwigsen, G. (2021). Pitch accents create dissociable syntactic and semantic expectations during sentence processing. Cognition, 212: 104702. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104702.

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 Creators:
van der Burght, Constantijn1, Author              
Friederici, Angela D.1, Author              
Goucha, Tomás1, Author              
Hartwigsen, Gesa2, Author              
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1Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_634551              
2Lise Meitner Research Group Cognition and Plasticity, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_3025665              

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Free keywords: Prosody; Information structure; Syntax; Semantics; Sentence processing
 Abstract: The language system uses syntactic, semantic, as well as prosodic cues to efficiently guide auditory sentence comprehension. Prosodic cues, such as pitch accents, can build expectations about upcoming sentence elements. This study investigates to what extent syntactic and semantic expectations generated by pitch accents can be dissociated and if so, which cues take precedence when contradictory information is present. We used sentences in which one out of two nominal constituents was placed in contrastive focus with a third one. All noun phrases carried overt syntactic information (case-marking of the determiner) and semantic information (typicality of the thematic role of the noun). Two experiments (a sentence comprehension and a sentence completion task) show that focus, marked by pitch accents, established expectations in both syntactic and semantic domains. However, only the syntactic expectations, when violated, were strong enough to interfere with sentence comprehension. Furthermore, when contradictory cues occurred in the same sentence, the local syntactic cue (case-marking) took precedence over the semantic cue (thematic role), and overwrote previous information cued by prosody. The findings indicate that during auditory sentence comprehension the processing system integrates different sources of information for argument role assignment, yet primarily relies on syntactic information.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2021-03-202020-01-132021-03-222021-04-122021-07
 Publication Status: Published in print
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 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104702
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Title: Cognition
  Other : Cognition
Source Genre: Journal
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Pages: - Volume / Issue: 212 Sequence Number: 104702 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 0010-0277
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/954925391298