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Processing consequences of superfluous and missing prosodic breaks in auditory sentence comprehension.

Bögels, S., Schriefers, H., Vonk, W., Chwilla, D., & Kerkhofs, R. (2013). Processing consequences of superfluous and missing prosodic breaks in auditory sentence comprehension. Neuropsychologia, 51, 2715-2728. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.09.008.
This ERP study investigates whether a superfluous prosodic break (i.e., a prosodic break that does not coincide with a syntactic break) has more severe processing consequences during auditory sentence comprehension than a missing prosodic break (i.e., the absence of a prosodic break at the position of a syntactic break). Participants listened to temporarily ambiguous sentences involving a prosody-syntax match or mismatch. The disambiguation of these sentences was always lexical in nature in the present experiment. This contrasts with a related study by Pauker, Itzhak, Baum, and Steinhauer (2011), where the disambiguation was of a lexical type for missing PBs and of a prosodic type for superfluous PBs. Our results converge with those of Pauker et al.: superfluous prosodic breaks lead to more severe processing problems than missing prosodic breaks. Importantly, the present results extend those of Pauker et al. showing that this holds when the disambiguation is always lexical in nature. Furthermore, our results show that the way listeners use prosody can change over the course of the experiment which bears consequences for future studies.
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