The Roles of Context and Prosody in Disambiguating Utterances with Two Negative Expressions in French


This paper experimentally investigates the roles of context and prosody in French in disambiguating simple transitive sentences with multiple negative expressions. Our results indicate that while Negative Concord (NC) is sometimes preferred in French, that this is not always the case, and that some speakers actually prefer Double Negative (DN) interpretations. Our results also show that context plays a significant role in disambiguating these sentences for most but not all speakers, as some speakers consistently choose the same interpretation regardless of context. An acoustic analysis of recordings produced by our participants also shows the use of prosody in the disambiguation of these sentences in the use of a higher pitch accent in the DN interpretation. The location of the pitch accent tended to fall on one (or both) of the negative items in the sentence, but was not uniform across all subjects.

Undergraduate Thesis