[PS-1.65] Prosody as a means to identify clause type. A view from Mandarin

Gryllia, S. 1 , Yang, Y. . 1, 2 , Pablos, L. 1, 2 , Doetjes, J. 1 & Cheng, L. L. 1, 2

1 Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
2 Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition

Mandarin is a wh-in-situ language: wh-phrases occupy the same linear position as their non-interrogative counterparts. This means that a sentence with a wh-phrase is indistinguishable from a declarative sentence up to the point where the wh-phrase is reached, contrary to the situation in English, where a sentence initial wh-word signals the clause type. We investigated whether in Mandarin early identification of questions can be reached on the basis of prosodic information by means of an audio-gating-experiment. On the basis of 40 stimuli from a previous production study, we constructed three gates: a(20subjects × 2clause-types), b(20subjects-adverbs × 2clause-types), and c(20subjects-adverbs-verbs × 2clause-types). 36 participants listened to 120 fragments and had to complete the sentence choosing a declarative or a question continuation. The results show that Mandarin listeners use prosodic cues early on (even from gate a) to correctly anticipate the clause type. Moreover, results from logit mixed-effect models (R/lme4) show that the prosodic properties of the clause type are a good predictor of the listeners? responses. Our results thus show that already at the beginning of the sentence prosodic marking distinguishing questions from declaratives is available, permitting the listener to use it for the identification of the clause type.