The prosody of Clefted Relatives: A new window into prosodic representations

Buhan Guo*, Nino Grillo*, Sven Mattys, Andrea Santi, Shayne Sloggett, Giuseppina Turco

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The well-attested association between information structure and the acoustic properties of sentences can be captured by either assuming a direct mapping between semantics and acoustics or invoking the mediation of phonological processes operating on well-defined prosodic domains (indirect approaches). Although these two accounts’ predictions typically converge, we identified an understudied contrast for which the two views make different predictions. Specifically, through 3 experiments (1 production, 2 comprehension), we tested the prosody of it-clefts containing string-identical Connected Clauses (-Who sang? -It was [the editor] [that sang]) or Relative Clauses (-Who called? -It was [the editor [that sang]] ([that called])) that have semantically focused elements of different structural sizes. Connected Clauses attach high in the structure and are given. Relative Clauses are assumed to convey background information, but here they are nested within the focused element and also in focus. Our production results showed a localized prominence on the rightmost stressable syllable of the Relative Clause, which is in line with indirect accounts. The comprehension studies further showed that i) clefted Relatives trigger garden-path effects in reading, but ii) garden-paths disappear when prosody is present. The studies support indirect accounts by employing more complicated structural configurations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024
EventSpeech Prosody 2024 - Leiden University Centre for Linguistics, Leiden , Netherlands
Duration: 2 Jul 20245 Jul 2024


ConferenceSpeech Prosody 2024
Abbreviated titleSP2024
Internet address


  • Prosody
  • Language Processing
  • Ambiguity resolution

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