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English-speaking preschoolers can use phrasal prosody for syntactic parsing
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This study tested American preschoolers' ability to use phrasal prosody to constrain their syntactic analysis of locally ambiguous sentences containing noun/verb homophones (e.g., [The baby flies] [hide in the shadows] vs [The baby] [flies his kite], brackets indicate prosodic boundaries). The words following the homophone were masked, such that prosodic cues were the only disambiguating information. In an oral completion task, 4- to 5-year-olds successfully exploited the sentence's prosodic structure to assign the appropriate syntactic category to the target word, mirroring previous results in French (but challenging previous English-language results) and providing cross-linguistic evidence for the role of phrasal prosody in children's syntactic analysis.
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