Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Sara Bögels (Donders Series 51)

March 4, 2011.

Promotors: Prof.dr. H.J. Schriefers, Prof.dr. W. Vonk

The role of prosody in language comprehension

When prosodic breaks and pitch accents come into play

Prosody, or the way in which language is spoken, can be an important source of information to understand language. Sara Bögels has studied how different prosodic devices play a role in language understanding using event-related brain potentials (ERPs). She investigated the effect of prosody on how listeners group the words in a sentence. She found that listeners use a prosodic break (‘pause’) to determine the grouping of words. If no break is present, the grouping often depends on other factors. A pitch accent following a break indicates an even stronger grouping, sometimes even leading listeners to ignore grammatical rules. In addition, Sara Bögels investigated listeners’ processing of pitch accents that indicate a contrast (as in: "the blue ball, the RED ball"). She concluded that listeners experience processing problems when an expected accent (like RED) is missing, but they do not experience any problems when they encounter a superfluous accent.

Sara Bögels