Spoiler Alert: Processing of Sentence Final Particles in Dutch

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Spoiler Alert: Processing of Sentence Final Particles in Dutch

Type: Research master thesis
Title: Spoiler Alert: Processing of Sentence Final Particles in Dutch
Author: Tulling, Maxime
Issue Date: 2016-08-31
Keywords: discourse particles
sentence planning
Abstract: Sentence final particles (SFPs) play an important role in the every-day spoken communication of various languages. For example, the addition of a Dutch intentional particle hè or hoor to a bare declarative utterance such as het is lekker weer ‘the weather is great’ can make the difference between the sentence being interpreted as an agreement-seeking question, or a correction. Still, we know very little about the psycho- and neurolinguistic properties of the processing and production of final particles. The purpose of this thesis is to generate more research on the psycholinguistics side and to deepen the theoretical knowledge we have by gathering experimental data. There are theoretical reasons to assume that intentional SFPs play an important role from the beginning of sentence formulation. The SFP-head selects for the entire proposition as its complement, so it is possible that speakers plan the particle ahead before they start producing the rest of the sentence. This hypothesis also makes sense from a psycholinguistic perspective, as it is presumed that the intention of the speaker is already determined before he/she starts uttering a sentence. In this thesis, I focus on sentences in isolation, and investigate the production, planning and perception of Dutch pragmatic particles (i.e. SFPs) that convey the speaker’s intention. The question I pursued to answer is whether Dutch sentence final particles are planned in advance, or whether they are inserted at the final moment. To investigate the potential planning of intentional SFPs I conducted three experiments. In a production experiment (Experiment 1) I investigated whether the speaker already starts encoding the intention of the message with prosodic cues preceding the intentional particle. Such cues would indicate that the speaker is already building up the illocutionary force of the sentence before the particle. Results indicate that there are such cues, and that even though they are sometimes quite small, they are used quite consistently across participants. In Experiment 2, the gating-technique is used in a perception experiment to investigate whether these prosodic cues preceding the particle could possibly help the listener anticipate for the intention or attitude expressed by an utterance. The results of this experiment indicate that participants were not that good at anticipating the end of sentences containing the final particles hè and hoor in the given task. Experiment 3 directly addresses the question whether the speaker plans a final particle ahead or whether they integrate the particle at a later stage of production. This question is about how incremental and how far ahead a sentence is planned in production. In this experiment, I examined the production process of the intentional SFPs hè and hoor in Dutch with a variant on the picture-word-interference task to investigate whether the particles are planned in advance, or not. I created an experiment that manipulates the prime preceding colored pictures, which are associated in a training task with a particular final element. The target condition of the experiment contains sentences with the final elements hè and hoor, which are intentional final particles. The effect of the distractor prime on the target condition was compared to a control condition. A congruent prime was assumed to facilitate sentence production at speech onset, only if the speaker is already planning the particle congruent with the prime. In the control conditions, in which it is assumed that speakers are not yet planning ahead for the final element of the sentence at speech onset, facilitation was assumed not to take place at speech onset. The results obtained for this experiment were not significant, due to high standard deviations. In future research it would be interesting to see whether the paradigm of this experiment could be adjusted, to gain more reliable results that can answer the main question we pursued.
Supervisor: Pablos Robles, LeticiaGryllia, Stella
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: Linguistics (Research master)
ECTS Credits: 30
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/42162

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