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Prosody in the comprehension of spoken language: a literature review

by A Cutler, D Dahan, W van Donselaar


Research on the exploitation of prosodic information in the comprehension of spoken language is reviewed. The research falls into three main areas: the use of prosody in the recognition of spoken words, in which most attention has been paid to the question of whether the prosodic structure of a word plays a role in initial activation of stored lexical representations; the use of prosody in the computation of syntactic structure, in which the resolution of global and local ambiguities has formed the central focus; and the role of prosody in the processing of discourse structure, in which there has been a preponderance of work on the contribution of accentuation and deaccentuation to integration of concepts with an existing discourse model. The review reveals that in each area progress has been made towards new conceptions of prosody's role in processing, and in particular this has involved abandonment of previously held deterministic views of the relationship between prosodic structure and other aspects of linguistic structure.

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