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Suprasegmental lexical stress cues in visual speech can guide spoken-word recognition

Jesse, A., & McQueen, J. M. (2014). Suprasegmental lexical stress cues in visual speech can guide spoken-word recognition. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67, 793-808. doi:10.1080/17470218.2013.834371.
Visual cues to the individual segments of speech and to sentence prosody guide speech recognition. The present study tested whether visual suprasegmental cues to the stress patterns of words can also constrain recognition. Dutch listeners use acoustic suprasegmental cues to lexical stress (changes in duration, amplitude, and pitch) in spoken-word recognition. We asked here whether they can also use visual suprasegmental cues. In two categorization experiments, Dutch participants saw a speaker say fragments of word pairs that were segmentally identical but differed in their stress realization (e.g., 'ca-vi from cavia "guinea pig" vs. 'ka-vi from kaviaar "caviar"). Participants were able to distinguish between these pairs from seeing a speaker alone. Only the presence of primary stress in the fragment, not its absence, was informative. Participants were able to distinguish visually primary from secondary stress on first syllables, but only when the fragment-bearing target word carried phrase-level emphasis. Furthermore, participants distinguished fragments with primary stress on their second syllable from those with secondary stress on their first syllable (e.g., pro-'jec from projector "projector" vs. 'pro-jec from projectiel "projectile"), independently of phrase-level emphasis. Seeing a speaker thus contributes to spoken-word recognition by providing suprasegmental information about the presence of primary lexical stress.
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