Use what you can: Storage, abstraction processes, and perceptual adjustments help listeners recognize reduced forms
SourceFrontiers in Psychology, 5, (2014), article 437
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Frontiers in Psychology
SubjectDI-BCB_DCC_Theme 1: Language and Communication; Learning and Plasticity; Psycholinguistics
Three eye-tracking experiments tested whether native listeners recognized reduced Dutch words better after having heard the same reduced words, or different reduced words of the same reduction type and whether familiarization with one reduction type helps listeners to deal with another reduction type. In the exposure phase, a segmental reduction group was exposed to /b/-reductions (e.g., minderij instead of bindenj, "book binder") and a syllabic reduction group was exposed to full-vowel deletions (e.g., p'raat instead of paraat, "ready"), while a control group did not hear any reductions. In the test phase, all three groups heard the same speaker producing reduced-/b/ and deleted-vowel words that were either repeated (Experiments 1 and 2) or new (Experiment 3), but that now appeared as targets in semantically neutral sentences. Word-specific learning effects were found for vowel-deletions but not for /b/-reductions. Generalization of learning to new words of the same reduction type occurred only if the exposure words showed a phonologically consistent reduction pattern (/b/-reductions). In contrast, generalization of learning to words of another reduction type occurred only if the exposure words showed a phonologically inconsistent reduction pattern (the vowel deletions; learning about them generalized to recognition of the /b/-reductions). In order to deal with reductions, listeners thus use various means. They store reduced variants (e.g., for the inconsistent vowel-deleted words) and they abstract over incoming information to build up and apply mapping rules (e.g., for the consistent /b/-reductions). Experience with inconsistent pronunciations leads to greater perceptual flexibility in dealing with other forms of reduction uttered by the same speaker than experience with consistent pronunciations.
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