How intonation contrains pragmatic inference

Abstract

In this paper, we present two experiments that investigate how intonation can constrain pragmatic inference. While prior research has shown that intonation can increase the likelihood of an inference being made, less is known about how it affects the mechanisms involved in processing of inferences. In the first experiment, listeners had more direct mouse paths towards target responses for stronger interpretations after hearing utterances with referents with pitch accents than without. In the second experiment, we replicate the finding of the first study and found more direct mouse paths towards weaker interpretations after hearing de-accented referents Our findings suggest that intonation constrains the online processing of pragmatic inference by increasing the availability of stronger interpretations.


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