This dissertation is concerned with the role of prosody and, specifically, linguistic rhythm for the syntactic processing of written text. My aim is to put forward, provide evidence for, and defend the following claims:
1. While processing written sentences, readers make use of their phonological knowledge and generate a mental prosodic-phonological representation of the printed text.
2. The mental prosodic representation is constructed in accordance with a syntactic description of the written string. Constraints at the interface of syntax and phonology provide for the compatibility of the syntactic analysis and the (mental) prosodic rendition of the sentence.
3. The implicit prosodic structure readers impose on the written string entails phonological phrasing and accentuation, but also lower level prosodic features such as linguistic rhythm which emerges from the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.
4. Phonological well-formedness conditions accompany and influence the process of syntactic parsing in reading from the very beginning, i.e. already at the level of recognizing lexical categories. At points of underspecified syntactic structure, syntactic parsing decisions may be made on the basis of phonological constraints alone.
5. In reading, the implicit local lexical-prosodic information may be more readily available to the processing mechanism than higher-level discourse structural representations and consequently may have more immediate influence on sentence processing.
6. The process of sentence comprehension in reading is conditioned by factors that are geared towards sentence production.
7. The interplay of syntactic and phonological processes in reading can be explained with recourse to a performance-compatible competence grammar.
The evidence from three reading experiments supports these points and suggests a model of grammatical competence in which constraints from various domains (syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse structure, and phonology) interact in providing the possible structural, i.e. grammatical descriptions.