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Listeners’ processing of a given reduced word pronunciation variant directly reflects their exposure to this variant: evidence from native listeners and learners of French

Brand, S., & Ernestus, M. (2017). Listeners’ processing of a given reduced word pronunciation variant directly reflects their exposure to this variant: evidence from native listeners and learners of French. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/17470218.2017.1313282.
n casual conversations, words often lack segments. This study investigates whether listeners rely on their experience with reduced word pronunciation variants during the processing of single segment reduction. We tested three groups of listeners in a lexical decision experiment with French words produced either with or without word-medial schwa (e.g., /ʀəvy/ and /ʀvy/ for revue). Participants also rated the relative frequencies of the two pronunciation variants of the words. If the recognition accuracy and reaction times for a given listener group correlate best with the frequencies of occurrence holding for that given listener group, recognition is influenced by listeners’ exposure to these variants. Native listeners' relative frequency ratings correlated well with their accuracy scores and RTs. Dutch advanced learners' accuracy scores and RTs were best predicted by their own ratings. In contrast, the accuracy and RTs from Dutch beginner learners of French could not be predicted by any relative frequency rating; the rating task was probably too difficult for them. The participant groups showed behaviour reflecting their difference in experience with the pronunciation variants. Our results strongly suggest that listeners store the frequencies of occurrence of pronunciation variants, and consequently the variants themselves
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