The ``Post-to-Times'' protocol of Bradley, Fernández & Taylor (2003) (BFT) presents two short sentences, see (1), to elicit an utterance containing a complex NP with a modifying relative clause (RC); for the speaker, RC's attachment is disambiguated. BFT reported that their instrumental analyses of elicited utterances (N2-disambiguated, uniformly) showed remarkable systematicity in phonological phrasing: Whole-sentence length controlled the likelihood of phrasal breaks occurring at RC's left edge, i.e., N2][RC. They argued that the overt prosody facts support an implicit prosody explanation (Fodor, 2002) of RC-attachment preferences: When ambiguous sentences were read silently, attachment was higher both when matrix subjects were heavier and when RCs were longer; see (2).
We report research extending these preliminary findings. We first examine BFT's claim that N2][RC is the sole site of systematic variation in default phonological phrasing in English because it is privileged in the syntax/prosody interface of that language. We evaluate the possible objection that this break site has merely been picked out by a protocol presenting N2 sentence-finally. Data were collected in an overt prosody study of Croatian, a language in which a proclitic preposition 'od' (non-thematic, and similar to English 'of') optionally precedes N2 in the complex NP; Lovric (forthcoming) shows N1][Prep-N2 to be a second site attracting phrase breaks in Croatian's default prosody. With materials factorially combining RC-Length (short/long) and Preposition (absent/present) and utterances elicited with BFT's protocol (see (3)), we demonstrate that phonological phrasing for this construction in Croatian involves a trade-off between two break-sites: RC's left edge, as in English, and Prep-N2's left edge. BFT's findings for English are not, therefore, an artefact of the protocol.
In a second study, we explore effects of RC's (non-)restrictiveness on phonological phrasing in English, contrasting two variants of the elicitation protocol. Restrictive RCs are elicited when an introductory sentence is accompanied by a ``Which X?'' question and response, as in (4a) and (4b), and non-restrictive RCs, when (4c) accompanies (4a); note that RC predicates are segmentally identical across restrictive and non-restrictive types. We demonstrate that it is only for restrictive RCs that the likelihood of the N2][RC phrasing break reliably grades with whole-sentence length. This result suggests an implicit prosody account of the finding of Hemforth et al. (submitted), that extraposed RCs in German fail to exhibit length effects on preferred attachment. Separate phonological phrasing of RC is obligatory under extraposition; and where break-likelihood is at ceiling, length-sensitivity is ruled out.
Bradley, D., Fernández, E. & Taylor, D. (2003). Prosodic weight versus information load in the relative clause attachment ambiguity. Paper presented at the 16th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Cambridge MA.
Fodor, J. D. (2002). Psycholinguistics cannot escape prosody. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Speech Prosody, Université de Provence, 83-88.
Hemforth, B., Fernández, S., Clifton, C., Jr., Frazier, L., Konieczny, L., & Walter, M. (submitted). Relative clause attachment in German, English and Spanish: Effects of position and length.
Lovric, N. (forthcoming). Implicit prosody in silent reading: Relative clause attachment in Croatian. Doctoral dissertation, CUNY Graduate Center.