The phonology of subordinate clauses and syntactic processing in Japanese

Project: Research

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Specific Languages


  • phonology, subordinate clauses, sentence processing, Japanese, syntax-prosody interface


This 4-year project will investigate prosodic properties of syntactic (subordinate) clauses in Japanese as well as their impacts on native speakers' acceptability judgments.

The first goal is to understand the mechanism of syntax–prosody mapping at the clause-level, which is still understudied compared to the phrase-level mapping. In order to obtain solid descriptive knowledge of prosodic properties of syntactic clauses, a series of controlled laboratory recordings and a corpus study of spontaneous speech are planned. Three topics will be studied: 1) Prosodic comparison of syntactic clause boundaries and phrase boundaries; 2) Prosodic comparison of different syntactic subordinate clause types; and 3) (Mis)matches
between syntactic and phonological clause boundaries. These topics also concern several theoretical questions regarding Match Theory, a recent theory of syntax–prosody mapping.

The second goal is to understand the effects of clause-level prosody on syntactic processing. The project aims to explain how the prosodic properties of clauses facilitate, or sometimes interfere with, parsing of syntactic clauses. In particular, two experiments (production and perception) are planned to verify a prosody-driven account of the so-called Clausemate Condition, a (seemingly) syntactic condition that applies to phrases undergoing certain syntactic movement operations. This study will clarify the relation between prosodic clause boundaries and clausemateship of syntactic phrases.
Short titleThe phonology of clauses in Japanese
Effective start/end date2019/01/012022/12/31