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Prosodically-conditioned detail in the recognition of spoken words

Salverda, A. P. (2005). Prosodically-conditioned detail in the recognition of spoken words. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
The research presented in this dissertation examined the influence of prosodically-conditioned detail on the recognition of spoken words. The main finding is that subphonemic information in the speech signal that is conditioned by constituent-level prosodic structure can affect lexical processing systematically. It was shown that such information, as indicated by and estimated from the lengthening of speech sounds in the vicinity of prosodic boundaries, can help listeners to distinguish onset-embedded words (e.g. 'ham') from longer words that have this word embedded at their onset (e.g. 'hamster'). Furthermore, it was shown that variation in the realization of a spoken word that is associated with its position in the prosodic structure of an utterance can effect lexical processing. The pattern of competitor activation associated with the recognition of a monosyllabic spoken word in utterance-final position, where the realization of the word is strongly affected by the utterance boundary, is different from that associated with the recognition of the same word in utterance-medial position, where the realization of the word is less strongly affected by the following prosodic-word boundary. Taken together, the findings attest to the extraordinary sensitivity of the spoken-word recogntion system by demonstrating the relevance for lexical processing of very fine-grained phonetic detail conditioned by prosodic structure.

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