Two studies investigated the effects of prosody and pragmatic context on off-line and on-line processing of sentences like John greeted Paul yesterday and Ben today. Such sentences are ambiguous between the so-called 'nongapping' reading, where John greeted Ben, and the highly unpreferred 'gapping' reading, where Ben greeted Paul. In the first experiment, participants listened to dialogues and gave a speeded response as to which reading of an ambiguous target sentence first comes to mind. In the second experiment, they also responded to a visual probe that was presented during the presentation of the ambiguous target. The results show that context and prosody have independent and strong effects on both on-line processing and off-line interpretation of gapping; in the right combination they can make gapping as easy as the normally preferred nongapping reading.
- Pragmatic context
- Spoken language processing