The Syntax–Prosody Interface in Lexical Functional Grammar

Abstract

This thesis develops a new approach to the syntax–prosody interface and establishes the integration of the phonological module into Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG). LFG is a modular grammar theory, which (among other questions) is interested in the relation between form and meaning, i.e., between what is said/perceived and what is intended/understood. An important factor with respect to this question is the distinction between two perspectives that are essential for the communication between speaker and listener: 1) comprehension, which discusses the question as to how information from a concrete speech signal influences syntactic phrasing and with it the fundamental ‘understanding’ of what is being said. And 2) production, which is concerned with the question how the speaker’s intention is transformed into an utterance. The focus in this thesis is on a specific fragment in this larger model of communication: the syntax–prosody interface. Given a concrete speech signal, the prosodic grouping of its elements is, on the one hand, related to the language’s internal syntactic structuring: Prosodic phrasing can influence syntactic phrasing in cases of syntactically ambiguous constructions, and syntax also determines prosodic phrasing in that the grouping of prosodic structure to a certain extent reflects (and is thus in part determined by) syntactic structure. However, on the other hand, the edges of syntactic and prosodic constituents are frequently incongruent. One possible reason for this non-isomorphism between syntactic and prosodic phrasing is the rephrasing of prosodically unstressed material. For example, in some languages, function words can be prosodically phrased with a preceding (stressed) element, but are, at the same time, syntactically phrased with a following syntactic head. Such incongruencies between the syntactic and the phonological module are also frequently found in another group of elements, namely prosodically deficient clitics, whose syntactic and prosodic associations are not necessarily congruent and which can, under some circumstances, even change their position in the clause as a result of specific prosodic requirements. From these observations it can be concluded that prosodic phrasing cannot be solely determined by syntactic phrasing. Instead, processes of prosodic restructuring have to be assumed independently of the syntax–prosody interface. The resulting underlying research question in this thesis is how this tension between intermodular communication and frequent non-isomorphism between syntactic and prosodic struc-

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