Prosody plays an important role in online sentence processing both explicitly and implicitly. It has been shown that prosodically packaging together parts of a sentence that are interpreted together facilitates processing of the sentence. This applies not only to explicit prosody but also implicit prosody. The present work hypothesizes that a line break in a written text induces an implicit prosodic break, which, in turn, should result in a processing bias for interpreting English wh-questions. Two experiments-one self-paced reading study and one questionnaire study-are reported. Both supported the "line break" hypothesis mentioned above. The results of the self-paced reading experiment showed that unambiguous wh-questions were read faster when the location of line breaks (or frame breaks) matched the scope of a wh-phrase (main or embedded clause) than when they did not. The questionnaire tested sentences with an ambiguous wh-phrase, one that could attach either to the main or the embedded clause. These sentences were interpreted as attaching to the main clause more often than to the embedded clause when a line break appeared after the main verb, but not when it appeared after the embedded verb.

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Keywords Implicit prosody, Inner voice, Line breaks, Sentence comprehension, Sentence processing, Silent reading, Wh-questions, Written text
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Journal Frontiers in Psychology
Note This Document is Protected by copyright and was first published by Frontiers. All rights reserved. it is reproduced with permission.
Hirotani, M, Terry, J.M. (J. Michael), & Sadato, N. (Norihiro). (2016). Processing load imposed by line breaks in English temporal Wh-questions. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(OCT). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01465