Anne Cutler


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  • Choi, J., Broersma, M., & Cutler, A. (2018). Phonetic learning is not enhanced by sequential exposure to more than one language. Linguistic Research, 35(3), 567-581. doi:10.17250/khisli.35.3.201812.006.


    Several studies have documented that international adoptees, who in early years have experienced a change from a language used in their birth country to a new language in an adoptive country, benefit from the limited early exposure to the birth language when relearning that language’s sounds later in life. The adoptees’ relearning advantages have been argued to be conferred by lasting birth-language knowledge obtained from the early exposure. However, it is also plausible to assume that the advantages may arise from adoptees’ superior ability to learn language sounds in general, as a result of their unusual linguistic experience, i.e., exposure to multiple languages in sequence early in life. If this is the case, then the adoptees’ relearning benefits should generalize to previously unheard language sounds, rather than be limited to their birth-language sounds. In the present study, adult Korean adoptees in the Netherlands and matched Dutch-native controls were trained on identifying a Japanese length distinction to which they had never been exposed before. The adoptees and Dutch controls did not differ on any test carried out before, during, or after the training, indicating that observed adoptee advantages for birth-language relearning do not generalize to novel, previously unheard language sounds. The finding thus fails to support the suggestion that birth-language relearning advantages may arise from enhanced ability to learn language sounds in general conferred by early experience in multiple languages. Rather, our finding supports the original contention that such advantages involve memory traces obtained before adoption
  • Johnson, E. K., Bruggeman, L., & Cutler, A. (2018). Abstraction and the (misnamed) language familiarity effect. Cognitive Science, 42, 633-645. doi:10.1111/cogs.12520.


    Talkers are recognized more accurately if they are speaking the listeners’ native language rather than an unfamiliar language. This “language familiarity effect” has been shown not to depend upon comprehension and must instead involve language sound patterns. We further examine the level of sound-pattern processing involved, by comparing talker recognition in foreign languages versus two varieties of English, by (a) English speakers of one variety, (b) English speakers of the other variety, and (c) non-native listeners (more familiar with one of the varieties). All listener groups performed better with native than foreign speech, but no effect of language variety appeared: Native listeners discriminated talkers equally well in each, with the native variety never outdoing the other variety, and non-native listeners discriminated talkers equally poorly in each, irrespective of the variety's familiarity. The results suggest that this talker recognition effect rests not on simple familiarity, but on an abstract level of phonological processing
  • Kidd, E., Junge, C., Spokes, T., Morrison, L., & Cutler, A. (2018). Individual differences in infant speech segmentation: Achieving the lexical shift. Infancy, 23(6), 770-794. doi:10.1111/infa.12256.


    We report a large‐scale electrophysiological study of infant speech segmentation, in which over 100 English‐acquiring 9‐month‐olds were exposed to unfamiliar bisyllabic words embedded in sentences (e.g., He saw a wild eagle up there), after which their brain responses to either the just‐familiarized word (eagle) or a control word (coral) were recorded. When initial exposure occurs in continuous speech, as here, past studies have reported that even somewhat older infants do not reliably recognize target words, but that successful segmentation varies across children. Here, we both confirm and further uncover the nature of this variation. The segmentation response systematically varied across individuals and was related to their vocabulary development. About one‐third of the group showed a left‐frontally located relative negativity in response to familiar versus control targets, which has previously been described as a mature response. Another third showed a similarly located positive‐going reaction (a previously described immature response), and the remaining third formed an intermediate grouping that was primarily characterized by an initial response delay. A fine‐grained group‐level analysis suggested that a developmental shift to a lexical mode of processing occurs toward the end of the first year, with variation across individual infants in the exact timing of this shift.

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  • Norris, D., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2018). Commentary on “Interaction in spoken word recognition models". Frontiers in Psychology, 9: 1568. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01568.
  • Cutler, A. (1991). Proceed with caution. New Scientist, (1799), 53-54.
  • Cutler, A., & Butterfield, S. (1991). Word boundary cues in clear speech: A supplementary report. Speech Communication, 10, 335-353. doi:10.1016/0167-6393(91)90002-B.


    One of a listener's major tasks in understanding continuous speech is segmenting the speech signal into separate words. When listening conditions are difficult, speakers can help listeners by deliberately speaking more clearly. In four experiments, we examined how word boundaries are produced in deliberately clear speech. In an earlier report we showed that speakers do indeed mark word boundaries in clear speech, by pausing at the boundary and lengthening pre-boundary syllables; moreover, these effects are applied particularly to boundaries preceding weak syllables. In English, listeners use segmentation procedures which make word boundaries before strong syllables easier to perceive; thus marking word boundaries before weak syllables in clear speech will make clear precisely those boundaries which are otherwise hard to perceive. The present report presents supplementary data, namely prosodic analyses of the syllable following a critical word boundary. More lengthening and greater increases in intensity were applied in clear speech to weak syllables than to strong. Mean F0 was also increased to a greater extent on weak syllables than on strong. Pitch movement, however, increased to a greater extent on strong syllables than on weak. The effects were, however, very small in comparison to the durational effects we observed earlier for syllables preceding the boundary and for pauses at the boundary.
  • Cutler, A., & Foss, D. (1977). On the role of sentence stress in sentence processing. Language and Speech, 20, 1-10.
  • Fay, D., & Cutler, A. (1977). Malapropisms and the structure of the mental lexicon. Linguistic Inquiry, 8, 505-520. Retrieved from
  • Cutler, A., & Fay, D. (1975). You have a Dictionary in your Head, not a Thesaurus. Texas Linguistic Forum, 1, 27-40.

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