Anne Cutler

Publications

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  • El Aissati, A., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2012). Finding words in a language that allows words without vowels. Cognition, 124, 79-84. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2012.03.006.

    Abstract

    Across many languages from unrelated families, spoken-word recognition is subject to a constraint whereby potential word candidates must contain a vowel. This constraint minimizes competition from embedded words (e.g., in English, disfavoring win in twin because t cannot be a word). However, the constraint would be counter-productive in certain languages that allow stand-alone vowelless open-class words. One such language is Berber (where t is indeed a word). Berber listeners here detected words affixed to nonsense contexts with or without vowels. Length effects seen in other languages replicated in Berber, but in contrast to prior findings, word detection was not hindered by vowelless contexts. When words can be vowelless, otherwise universal constraints disfavoring vowelless words do not feature in spoken-word recognition.

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  • Cutler, A., & Davis, C. (2012). An orthographic effect in phoneme processing, and its limitations. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 18. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00018.

    Abstract

    To examine whether lexically stored knowledge about spelling influences phoneme evaluation, we conducted three experiments with a low-level phonetic judgement task: phoneme goodness rating. In each experiment, listeners heard phonetic tokens varying along a continuum centred on /s/, occurring finally in isolated word or nonword tokens. An effect of spelling appeared in Experiment 1: Native English speakers’ goodness ratings for the best /s/ tokens were significantly higher in words spelled with S (e.g., bless) than in words spelled with C (e.g., voice). No such difference appeared when nonnative speakers rated the same materials in Experiment 2, indicating that the difference could not be due to acoustic characteristics of the S- versus C-words. In Experiment 3, nonwords with lexical neighbours consistently spelled with S (e.g., pless) versus with C (e.g., floice) failed to elicit orthographic neighbourhood effects; no significant difference appeared in native English speakers’ ratings for the S-consistent versus the C-consistent sets. Obligatory influence of lexical knowledge on phonemic processing would have predicted such neighbourhood effects; the findings are thus better accommodated by models in which phonemic decisions draw strategically upon lexical information.
  • Cutler, A. (2012). Eentaalpsychologie is geen taalpsychologie: Part II. [Valedictory lecture Radboud University]. Nijmegen: Radboud University.

    Abstract

    Rede uitgesproken bij het afscheid als hoogleraar Vergelijkende taalpsychologie aan de Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen van de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen op donderdag 20 september 2012
  • Cutler, A. (2012). Native listening: Language experience and the recognition of spoken words. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Abstract

    Understanding speech in our native tongue seems natural and effortless; listening to speech in a nonnative language is a different experience. In this book, Anne Cutler argues that listening to speech is a process of native listening because so much of it is exquisitely tailored to the requirements of the native language. Her cross-linguistic study (drawing on experimental work in languages that range from English and Dutch to Chinese and Japanese) documents what is universal and what is language specific in the way we listen to spoken language. Cutler describes the formidable range of mental tasks we carry out, all at once, with astonishing speed and accuracy, when we listen. These include evaluating probabilities arising from the structure of the native vocabulary, tracking information to locate the boundaries between words, paying attention to the way the words are pronounced, and assessing not only the sounds of speech but prosodic information that spans sequences of sounds. She describes infant speech perception, the consequences of language-specific specialization for listening to other languages, the flexibility and adaptability of listening (to our native languages), and how language-specificity and universality fit together in our language processing system. Drawing on her four decades of work as a psycholinguist, Cutler documents the recent growth in our knowledge about how spoken-word recognition works and the role of language structure in this process. Her book is a significant contribution to a vibrant and rapidly developing field.
  • Cutler, A. (2012). Native listening: The flexibility dimension. Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(2), 169-187.

    Abstract

    The way we listen to spoken language is tailored to the specific benefit of native-language speech input. Listening to speech in non-native languages can be significantly hindered by this native bias. Is it possible to determine the degree to which a listener is listening in a native-like manner? Promising indications of how this question may be tackled are provided by new research findings concerning the great flexibility that characterises listening to the L1, in online adjustment of phonetic category boundaries for adaptation across talkers, and in modulation of lexical dynamics for adjustment across listening conditions. This flexibility pays off in many dimensions, including listening in noise, adaptation across dialects, and identification of voices. These findings further illuminate the robustness and flexibility of native listening, and potentially point to ways in which we might begin to assess degrees of ‘native-likeness’ in this skill.
  • Cutler, A., Otake, T., & Bruggeman, L. (2012). Phonologically determined asymmetries in vocabulary structure across languages. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 132(2), EL155-EL160. doi:10.1121/1.4737596.

    Abstract

    Studies of spoken-word recognition have revealed that competition from embedded words differs in strength as a function of where in the carrier word the embedded word is found and have further shown embedding patterns to be skewed such that embeddings in initial position in carriers outnumber embeddings in final position. Lexico-statistical analyses show that this skew is highly attenuated in Japanese, a noninflectional language. Comparison of the extent of the asymmetry in the three Germanic languages English, Dutch, and German allows the source to be traced to a combination of suffixal morphology and vowel reduction in unstressed syllables.
  • Junge, C., Cutler, A., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Electrophysiological evidence of early word learning. Neuropsychologia, 50, 3702-3712. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.10.012.

    Abstract

    Around their first birthday infants begin to talk, yet they comprehend words long before. This study investigated the event-related potentials (ERP) responses of nine-month-olds on basic level picture-word pairings. After a familiarization phase of six picture-word pairings per semantic category, comprehension for novel exemplars was tested in a picture-word matching paradigm. ERPs time-locked to pictures elicited a modulation of the Negative Central (Nc) component, associated with visual attention and recognition. It was attenuated by category repetition as well as by the type-token ratio of picture context. ERPs time-locked to words in the training phase became more negative with repetition (N300-600), but there was no influence of picture type-token ratio, suggesting that infants have identified the concept of each picture before a word was presented. Results from the test phase provided clear support that infants integrated word meanings with (novel) picture context. Here, infants showed different ERP responses for words that did or did not align with the picture context: a phonological mismatch (N200) and a semantic mismatch (N400). Together, results were informative of visual categorization, word recognition and word-to-world-mappings, all three crucial processes for vocabulary construction.
  • Junge, C., Kooijman, V., Hagoort, P., & Cutler, A. (2012). Rapid recognition at 10 months as a predictor of language development. Developmental Science, 15, 463-473. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2012.1144.x.

    Abstract

    Infants’ ability to recognize words in continuous speech is vital for building a vocabulary.We here examined the amount and type of exposure needed for 10-month-olds to recognize words. Infants first heard a word, either embedded within an utterance or in isolation, then recognition was assessed by comparing event-related potentials to this word versus a word that they had not heard directly before. Although all 10-month-olds showed recognition responses to words first heard in isolation, not all infants showed such responses to words they had first heard within an utterance. Those that did succeed in the latter, harder, task, however, understood more words and utterances when re-tested at 12 months, and understood more words and produced more words at 24 months, compared with those who had shown no such recognition response at 10 months. The ability to rapidly recognize the words in continuous utterances is clearly linked to future language development.
  • McQueen, J. M., Tyler, M., & Cutler, A. (2012). Lexical retuning of children’s speech perception: Evidence for knowledge about words’ component sounds. Language Learning and Development, 8, 317-339. doi:10.1080/15475441.2011.641887.

    Abstract

    Children hear new words from many different talkers; to learn words most efficiently, they should be able to represent them independently of talker-specific pronunciation detail. However, do children know what the component sounds of words should be, and can they use that knowledge to deal with different talkers' phonetic realizations? Experiment 1 replicated prior studies on lexically guided retuning of speech perception in adults, with a picture-verification methodology suitable for children. One participant group heard an ambiguous fricative ([s/f]) replacing /f/ (e.g., in words like giraffe); another group heard [s/f] replacing /s/ (e.g., in platypus). The first group subsequently identified more tokens on a Simpie-[s/f]impie-Fimpie toy-name continuum as Fimpie. Experiments 2 and 3 found equivalent lexically guided retuning effects in 12- and 6-year-olds. Children aged 6 have all that is needed for adjusting to talker variation in speech: detailed and abstract phonological representations and the ability to apply them during spoken-word recognition.

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  • Tuinman, A., Mitterer, H., & Cutler, A. (2012). Resolving ambiguity in familiar and unfamiliar casual speech. Journal of Memory and Language, 66, 530-544. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2012.02.001.

    Abstract

    In British English, the phrase Canada aided can sound like Canada raided if the speaker links the two vowels at the word boundary with an intrusive /r/. There are subtle phonetic differences between an onset /r/ and an intrusive /r/, however. With cross-modal priming and eye-tracking, we examine how native British English listeners and non-native (Dutch) listeners deal with the lexical ambiguity arising from this language-specific connected speech process. Together the results indicate that the presence of /r/ initially activates competing words for both listener groups; however, the native listeners rapidly exploit the phonetic cues and achieve correct lexical selection. In contrast, these advanced L2 listeners to English failed to recover from the /r/-induced competition, and failed to match native performance in either task. The /r/-intrusion process, which adds a phoneme to speech input, thus causes greater difficulty for L2 listeners than connectedspeech processes which alter or delete phonemes.
  • Warner, N. L., McQueen, J. M., Liu, P. Z., Hoffmann, M., & Cutler, A. (2012). Timing of perception for all English diphones [Abstract]. Program abstracts from the 164th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 132(3), 1967.

    Abstract

    Information in speech does not unfold discretely over time; perceptual cues are gradient and overlapped. However, this varies greatly across segments and environments: listeners cannot identify the affricate in /ptS/ until the frication, but information about the vowel in /li/ begins early. Unlike most prior studies, which have concentrated on subsets of language sounds, this study tests perception of every English segment in every phonetic environment, sampling perceptual identification at six points in time (13,470 stimuli/listener; 20 listeners). Results show that information about consonants after another segment is most localized for affricates (almost entirely in the release), and most gradual for voiced stops. In comparison to stressed vowels, unstressed vowels have less information spreading to neighboring segments and are less well identified. Indeed, many vowels, especially lax ones, are poorly identified even by the end of the following segment. This may partly reflect listeners’ familiarity with English vowels’ dialectal variability. Diphthongs and diphthongal tense vowels show the most sudden improvement in identification, similar to affricates among the consonants, suggesting that information about segments defined by acoustic change is highly localized. This large dataset provides insights into speech perception and data for probabilistic modeling of spoken word recognition.
  • Braun, B., Tagliapietra, L., & Cutler, A. (2008). Contrastive utterances make alternatives salient: Cross-modal priming evidence. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2008 (pp. 69-69).

    Abstract

    Sentences with contrastive intonation are assumed to presuppose contextual alternatives to the accented elements. Two cross-modal priming experiments tested in Dutch whether such contextual alternatives are automatically available to listeners. Contrastive associates – but not non- contrastive associates - were facilitated only when primes were produced in sentences with contrastive intonation, indicating that contrastive intonation makes unmentioned contextual alternatives immediately available. Possibly, contrastive contours trigger a “presupposition resolution mechanism” by which these alternatives become salient.
  • Braun, B., Lemhöfer, K., & Cutler, A. (2008). English word stress as produced by English and Dutch speakers: The role of segmental and suprasegmental differences. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2008 (pp. 1953-1953).

    Abstract

    It has been claimed that Dutch listeners use suprasegmental cues (duration, spectral tilt) more than English listeners in distinguishing English word stress. We tested whether this asymmetry also holds in production, comparing the realization of English word stress by native English speakers and Dutch speakers. Results confirmed that English speakers centralize unstressed vowels more, while Dutch speakers of English make more use of suprasegmental differences.
  • Broersma, M., & Cutler, A. (2008). Phantom word activation in L2. System, 36(1), 22-34. doi:10.1016/j.system.2007.11.003.

    Abstract

    L2 listening can involve the phantom activation of words which are not actually in the input. All spoken-word recognition involves multiple concurrent activation of word candidates, with selection of the correct words achieved by a process of competition between them. L2 listening involves more such activation than L1 listening, and we report two studies illustrating this. First, in a lexical decision study, L2 listeners accepted (but L1 listeners did not accept) spoken non-words such as groof or flide as real English words. Second, a priming study demonstrated that the same spoken non-words made recognition of the real words groove, flight easier for L2 (but not L1) listeners, suggesting that, for the L2 listeners only, these real words had been activated by the spoken non-word input. We propose that further understanding of the activation and competition process in L2 lexical processing could lead to new understanding of L2 listening difficulty.
  • Cutler, A., Garcia Lecumberri, M. L., & Cooke, M. (2008). Consonant identification in noise by native and non-native listeners: Effects of local context. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 124(2), 1264-1268. doi:10.1121/1.2946707.

    Abstract

    Speech recognition in noise is harder in second (L2) than first languages (L1). This could be because noise disrupts speech processing more in L2 than L1, or because L1 listeners recover better though disruption is equivalent. Two similar prior studies produced discrepant results: Equivalent noise effects for L1 and L2 (Dutch) listeners, versus larger effects for L2 (Spanish) than L1. To explain this, the latter experiment was presented to listeners from the former population. Larger noise effects on consonant identification emerged for L2 (Dutch) than L1 listeners, suggesting that task factors rather than L2 population differences underlie the results discrepancy.
  • Cutler, A., McQueen, J. M., Butterfield, S., & Norris, D. (2008). Prelexically-driven perceptual retuning of phoneme boundaries. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2008 (pp. 2056-2056).

    Abstract

    Listeners heard an ambiguous /f-s/ in nonword contexts where only one of /f/ or /s/ was legal (e.g., frul/*srul or *fnud/snud). In later categorisation of a phonetic continuum from /f/ to /s/, their category boundaries had shifted; hearing -rul led to expanded /f/ categories, -nud expanded /s/. Thus phonotactic sequence information alone induces perceptual retuning of phoneme category boundaries; lexical access is not required.
  • Cutler, A. (2008). The abstract representations in speech processing. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61(11), 1601-1619. doi:10.1080/13803390802218542.

    Abstract

    Speech processing by human listeners derives meaning from acoustic input via intermediate steps involving abstract representations of what has been heard. Recent results from several lines of research are here brought together to shed light on the nature and role of these representations. In spoken-word recognition, representations of phonological form and of conceptual content are dissociable. This follows from the independence of patterns of priming for a word's form and its meaning. The nature of the phonological-form representations is determined not only by acoustic-phonetic input but also by other sources of information, including metalinguistic knowledge. This follows from evidence that listeners can store two forms as different without showing any evidence of being able to detect the difference in question when they listen to speech. The lexical representations are in turn separate from prelexical representations, which are also abstract in nature. This follows from evidence that perceptual learning about speaker-specific phoneme realization, induced on the basis of a few words, generalizes across the whole lexicon to inform the recognition of all words containing the same phoneme. The efficiency of human speech processing has its basis in the rapid execution of operations over abstract representations.
  • Goudbeek, M., Cutler, A., & Smits, R. (2008). Supervised and unsupervised learning of multidimensionally varying nonnative speech categories. Speech Communication, 50(2), 109-125. doi:10.1016/j.specom.2007.07.003.

    Abstract

    The acquisition of novel phonetic categories is hypothesized to be affected by the distributional properties of the input, the relation of the new categories to the native phonology, and the availability of supervision (feedback). These factors were examined in four experiments in which listeners were presented with novel categories based on vowels of Dutch. Distribution was varied such that the categorization depended on the single dimension duration, the single dimension frequency, or both dimensions at once. Listeners were clearly sensitive to the distributional information, but unidimensional contrasts proved easier to learn than multidimensional. The native phonology was varied by comparing Spanish versus American English listeners. Spanish listeners found categorization by frequency easier than categorization by duration, but this was not true of American listeners, whose native vowel system makes more use of duration-based distinctions. Finally, feedback was either available or not; this comparison showed supervised learning to be significantly superior to unsupervised learning.
  • Kim, J., Davis, C., & Cutler, A. (2008). Perceptual tests of rhythmic similarity: II. Syllable rhythm. Language and Speech, 51(4), 343-359. doi:10.1177/0023830908099069.

    Abstract

    To segment continuous speech into its component words, listeners make use of language rhythm; because rhythm differs across languages, so do the segmentation procedures which listeners use. For each of stress-, syllable-and mora-based rhythmic structure, perceptual experiments have led to the discovery of corresponding segmentation procedures. In the case of mora-based rhythm, similar segmentation has been demonstrated in the otherwise unrelated languages Japanese and Telugu; segmentation based on syllable rhythm, however, has been previously demonstrated only for European languages from the Romance family. We here report two target detection experiments in which Korean listeners, presented with speech in Korean and in French, displayed patterns of segmentation like those previously observed in analogous experiments with French listeners. The Korean listeners' accuracy in detecting word-initial target fragments in either language was significantly higher when the fragments corresponded exactly to a syllable in the input than when the fragments were smaller or larger than a syllable. We conclude that Korean and French listeners can call on similar procedures for segmenting speech, and we further propose that perceptual tests of speech segmentation provide a valuable accompaniment to acoustic analyses for establishing languages' rhythmic class membership.
  • Kooijman, V., Johnson, E. K., & Cutler, A. (2008). Reflections on reflections of infant word recognition. In A. D. Friederici, & G. Thierry (Eds.), Early language development: Bridging brain and behaviour (pp. 91-114). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Connine, C. M., Clifton, Jr., C., & Cutler, A. (1987). Effects of lexical stress on phonetic categorization. Phonetica, 44, 133-146.
  • Cutler, A., Norris, D., & Williams, J. (1987). A note on the role of phonological expectations in speech segmentation. Journal of Memory and Language, 26, 480-487. doi:10.1016/0749-596X(87)90103-3.

    Abstract

    Word-initial CVC syllables are detected faster in words beginning consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel (CVCV-) than in words beginning consonant-vowel-consonant-consonant (CVCC-). This effect was reported independently by M. Taft and G. Hambly (1985, Journal of Memory and Language, 24, 320–335) and by A. Cutler, J. Mehler, D. Norris, and J. Segui (1986, Journal of Memory and Language, 25, 385–400). Taft and Hambly explained the effect in terms of lexical factors. This explanation cannot account for Cutler et al.'s results, in which the effect also appeared with nonwords and foreign words. Cutler et al. suggested that CVCV-sequences might simply be easier to perceive than CVCC-sequences. The present study confirms this suggestion, and explains it as a reflection of listener expectations constructed on the basis of distributional characteristics of the language.
  • Cutler, A. (1987). Components of prosodic effects in speech recognition. In Proceedings of the Eleventh International Congress of Phonetic Sciences: Vol. 1 (pp. 84-87). Tallinn: Academy of Sciences of the Estonian SSR, Institute of Language and Literature.

    Abstract

    Previous research has shown that listeners use the prosodic structure of utterances in a predictive fashion in sentence comprehension, to direct attention to accented words. Acoustically identical words spliced into sentence contexts arc responded to differently if the prosodic structure of the context is \ aricd: when the preceding prosody indicates that the word will he accented, responses are faster than when the preceding prosodv is inconsistent with accent occurring on that word. In the present series of experiments speech hybridisation techniques were first used to interchange the timing patterns within pairs of prosodic variants of utterances, independently of the pitch and intensity contours. The time-adjusted utterances could then serve as a basis lor the orthogonal manipulation of the three prosodic dimensions of pilch, intensity and rhythm. The overall pattern of results showed that when listeners use prosody to predict accent location, they do not simply rely on a single prosodic dimension, hut exploit the interaction between pitch, intensity and rhythm.
  • Cutler, A., Mehler, J., Norris, D., & Segui, J. (1987). Phoneme identification and the lexicon. Cognitive Psychology, 19, 141-177. doi:10.1016/0010-0285(87)90010-7.
  • Cutler, A. (1987). Speaking for listening. In A. Allport, D. MacKay, W. Prinz, & E. Scheerer (Eds.), Language perception and production: Relationships between listening, speaking, reading and writing (pp. 23-40). London: Academic Press.

    Abstract

    Speech production is constrained at all levels by the demands of speech perception. The speaker's primary aim is successful communication, and to this end semantic, syntactic and lexical choices are directed by the needs of the listener. Even at the articulatory level, some aspects of production appear to be perceptually constrained, for example the blocking of phonological distortions under certain conditions. An apparent exception to this pattern is word boundary information, which ought to be extremely useful to listeners, but which is not reliably coded in speech. It is argued that the solution to this apparent problem lies in rethinking the concept of the boundary of the lexical access unit. Speech rhythm provides clear information about the location of stressed syllables, and listeners do make use of this information. If stressed syllables can serve as the determinants of word lexical access codes, then once again speakers are providing precisely the necessary form of speech information to facilitate perception.
  • Cutler, A., & Carter, D. (1987). The prosodic structure of initial syllables in English. In J. Laver, & M. Jack (Eds.), Proceedings of the European Conference on Speech Technology: Vol. 1 (pp. 207-210). Edinburgh: IEE.
  • Cutler, A., Butterfield, S., & Williams, J. (1987). The perceptual integrity of syllabic onsets. Journal of Memory and Language, 26, 406-418. doi:10.1016/0749-596X(87)90099-4.
  • Cutler, A., & Carter, D. (1987). The predominance of strong initial syllables in the English vocabulary. Computer Speech and Language, 2, 133-142. doi:10.1016/0885-2308(87)90004-0.

    Abstract

    Studies of human speech processing have provided evidence for a segmentation strategy in the perception of continuous speech, whereby a word boundary is postulated, and a lexical access procedure initiated, at each metrically strong syllable. The likely success of this strategy was here estimated against the characteristics of the English vocabulary. Two computerized dictionaries were found to list approximately three times as many words beginning with strong syllables (i.e. syllables containing a full vowel) as beginning with weak syllables (i.e. syllables containing a reduced vowel). Consideration of frequency of lexical word occurrence reveals that words beginning with strong syllables occur on average more often than words beginning with weak syllables. Together, these findings motivate an estimate for everyday speech recognition that approximately 85% of lexical words (i.e. excluding function words) will begin with strong syllables. This estimate was tested against a corpus of 190 000 words of spontaneous British English conversion. In this corpus, 90% of lexical words were found to begin with strong syllables. This suggests that a strategy of postulating word boundaries at the onset of strong syllables would have a high success rate in that few actual lexical word onsets would be missed.
  • Cutler, A. (1987). The task of the speaker and the task of the hearer [Commentary/Sperber & Wilson: Relevance]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 10, 715-716.
  • Cutler, A. (1971). [Review of the book Probleme der Aufgabenanalyse bei der Erstellung von Sprachprogrammen by K. Bung]. Babel, 7, 29-31.

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