We are happy to announce the next talk in the Phonology Colloquium by Candy Adusei (Stuttgart University) on „Relative Clause Attachment and Prosodic Phrasing in Akan Twi and English“ on Wednesday, 10.01.2024, from 16-18 ct.


Ample research has been conducted on the intricacies of attachment preferences which are caused by ambiguity when the head noun of the relative clause to which it is attached is complex, exemplified in the sentence: The servant of the actress who shot the man is here. This has given rise to the high attachment (where the parser attaches the relative clause to the initial noun, ‘the servant’), versus the low attachment (where the relative clause is attached to the most recent noun, the actress’) debate. Different languages have been shown to prefer different attachments for various reasons. One of such theories which attempt to account for this variation is Fodor (2002)’s Implicit Prosody Hypothesis, which explains that attachment resolution is affected by the default prosodic phrasing of the sentences across languages, and thus in silent reading, the reader provides the words with intonation and creates prosodic boundaries which influence processing and hence, resolution. This thesis seeks to investigate whether these prosodic cues such as prominent rises, lengthening and pauses, found to influence processing of these complex sentence types (de la Cruz-Pavía & Elordieta, 2015) in some languages including German, English and Spanish (Hemforth et al., 2015), play a similar role in Akan Twi, a tonal language which is characterized by stacking of relative clauses creating attachment ambiguity. Two experiments are used to explore this: a sentence completion task to determine which attachment type is preferred by Akan Twi speakers, and a production task which seeks to explore cues that are attributive of high attachment and low attachment sentences. This research hypothesizes that parallel to English, which is the official language of Akan Twi speakers, when presented with a choice in the sentence completion task, low attachment will be implicitly preferred, which could be guided by new information received. Due to limited research on relative clause attachment in Akan Twi, prosodic cues that differentiate between the two attachment types pose an open question, howvever, it is expected that known cues such as pauses, pitch reset and lenghtening, will be found to interact in specific ways to signify this difference in production.