Prepositional Phrase Attachment Ambiguities in German. A Cross-Dialectal Experimental Study
AuthorPilsbacher, Anna Katharina
This thesis addresses the production and perception of sentences with ambiguous prepositional phrase attachment in Standard German. In the first part of the study, an informed native speaker produced prosodically disambiguated sentences, which were analysed acoustically for disambiguation cues. In the second part, these sentences were then presented in a perception test where respondents were asked to choose which attachment type the sentence represents. Respondents varied by membership in a dialect group (Bavarian, Alemannic or Northern). Experimental sentence types varied by syntactic clause type. Since verb placement in German varies between simple sentences (verb-second) and embedded clauses (verb-final), variation in surface structure of the VP-phrase between simple and embedded sentences might be expected to influence disambiguation if syntactic theories of attachment preference are correct. On the other hand, prosody was also hypothesized to be an important source of disambiguation in the auditory materials presented to respondents. The materials also varied with respect to semantic bias, i.e. with respect to whether sentences gave rise to a more meaningful unit for one intended reading than for the other. The results of the study indicated that prosody had a significant effect on attachment choice equally across all dialect groups, and that the syntactic effect of clause type was not a significant factor overall. Semantic plausibility also gave rise to no significant effects in this particular task. However, even the effect of prosody was swamped by the overwhelming preference for high attachment found for all speakers and clause types. The thesis argues that this preference is probably driven by the lexical distributional properties of the preposition mit which was the sole preposition used in the experimental materials.
[Dato for tilgjengeliggjøring endret etter epost-henvendelse fra forfatteren. 10.10.2019. LL]
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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