recent work

McClay, Elise & Michael Wagner (in press). Accented Pronouns and Contrast. To appear in the Proceedings of the 50th Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society in 2014. [paper]

Abstract: Both the lack of accentuation on a referring expression and the choice of a pronoun over a full noun phrase have been tied to a higher accessibility of the referent. Why, then, would a pronoun ever be accented? We consider three perspectives: Kameyama’s (1999) Complementary Preference Hypothesis, Smyth’s (1994) Parallel Function view, and Rooth’s (1992) Alternatives Theory of Focus, and present experimental evidence in favour of the focus view. We conclude by noting issues with respect to the definition of contrast that arise when considering cases of multiple foci as in the data of our experiments.

Wagner Michael (in press). Phonological Evidence in Syntax? In: Tibor Kiss and Artemis Alexiadou (Eds.): Syntax – Theory and Analysis. An International Handbook. Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science. 42. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2015 [paper]

Abstract: Linguistic constituents that encode salient information are often prosodically reduced. Recent studies have presented evidence that higher contextual accessibility of referents results in lower prosodic prominence. Accounts of reduction in terms of accessibility set out to explain a range of phenomena that include those that are in the domain of linguistic theories of focus and givenness. The tacit assumption is that more general and independently motivated accessibility factors will be able to supplant the more specialized grammatical accounts of prosodic prominence. This paper reviews previous results and finds that existing accessibility accounts cannot explain a range of data easily captured by the alternatives theory of focus, and that various experimental studies motivating the accessibility view actually fail to distinguish between the two accounts. New experimental data is presented that teases apart the effects of accessibility and linguistic focus.

Wagner, Michael & Jeffrey Klassen (in press). Accessibility is no Alternative to Alternatives. To appear in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. [paper]

Abstract: Linear precedence is one of the key sources of evidence for the syntactic structure of complex expressions, but other aspects of the phonological representation of a sentence, such as its prosody, are often not considered when testing syntactic theories. This overview provides an introduction to the three main dimensions of sentence prosody, phrasing, prominence and intonational tune, focusing on how they can enter syntactic argumentation.

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