The role of segmental and durational cues in the processing of reduced words
SourceLanguage and Speech, 61, 3, (2018), pp. 358-383
Article / Letter to editor
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Language and Speech
SubjectLanguage & Communication; Language in Mind; Learning and Plasticity; Learning pronunciation variants for words in a foreign language: Towards an ecologically valid theory based on experimental research and computational modeling; Speech Comprehension; The challenge of reduced pronunciation variants in conversational speech for foreign language listeners: experimental research and computational modeling
In natural conversations, words are generally shorter and they often lack segments. It is unclear to what extent such durational and segmental reductions affect word recognition. The present study investigates to what extent reduction in the initial syllable hinders word comprehension, which types of segments listeners mostly rely on, and whether listeners use word duration as a cue in word recognition. We conducted three experiments in Dutch, in which we adapted the gating paradigm to study the comprehension of spontaneously uttered conversational speech by aligning the gates with the edges of consonant clusters or vowels. Participants heard the context and some segmental and/or durational information from reduced target words with unstressed initial syllables. The initial syllable varied in its degree of reduction, and in half of the stimuli the vowel was not clearly present. Participants gave too short answers if they were only provided with durational information from the target words, which shows that listeners are unaware of the reductions that can occur in spontaneous speech. More importantly, listeners required fewer segments to recognize target words if the vowel in the initial syllable was absent. This result strongly suggests that this vowel hardly plays a role in word comprehension, and that its presence may even delay this process. More important are the consonants and the stressed vowel.
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