The roll of the silly ball
Cambridge, MA : MIT Press
InDupoux, E. (ed.), Language, Brain and Cognitive Development: Essays in honor of Jacques Mehler, pp. 181-194
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Dupoux, E. (ed.), Language, Brain and Cognitive Development: Essays in honor of Jacques Mehler
Subject150 000 MR Techniques in Brain Function; Psycholinguistics
What is the syllable's role in speech processing? We suggest that the syllable has two roles to play in spoken word recognition. But neither corresponds to the position adopted in Mehler (1981), which was that "the syllable is probably the output of the segmenting device operating upon the acoustic signal. The syllable is then used to access the lexicon" (p. 342). On this view, syllables are the "units of perception" which provide the interface between the speech signal and the mental lexicon. We argue that this theory is no longer tenable. Cross-linguistic evidence suggests instead a language-specific role for the syllable: In languages like French, syllabic structure marks the locations of likely word boundaries in the speech signal. Cross-linguistic evidence also suggests a language-universal role: Across the world's languages, possible parses of continuous speech consist of chunks no smaller than a syllable.
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