Prosodic phrasing and ambiguity resolution as revealed by brain potentials by Karsten Steinhauer (McGill University, School of Communication Sciences & Disorders, Montréal)
Prosodic phrasing has a major impact on our interpretation of utterances. For example, the sentence ""Mary said Peter's brother was the nicest girl at the party"" results in confusion, unless it is presented with prosodic boundaries before and after ""said Peter's brother"". Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) provide an excellent tool to investigate the temporal dynamics of language processing in real-time. In the domain of prosody, distinct ERP components immediately reflect both the processing of prosodic boundaries as well as the subsequent integration of prosody with other types of linguistic information. In my talk, I will give an overview of this research area. After a brief introduction to ERPs, I will review a number of auditory and visual ERP studies and address questions such as: How much time does our brain need to take advantage of prosodic cues? When do children's brains learn to use this information? Does prosodic information play a role during silent reading? Are the brain mechanisms underlying prosodic phrasing in speech comparable to those involved in musical phrasing? How do we integrate multiple (conflicting) boundaries within the same utterance?