Anne Cutler


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  • Kember, H., Choi, J., Yu, J., & Cutler, A. (2019). The processing of linguistic prominence. Language and Speech. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0023830919880217.


    Prominence, the expression of informational weight within utterances, can be signaled by prosodic highlighting (head-prominence, as in English) or by position (as in Korean edge-prominence). Prominence confers processing advantages, even if conveyed only by discourse manipulations. Here we compared processing of prominence in English and Korean, using a task that indexes processing success, namely recognition memory. In each language, participants’ memory was tested for target words heard in sentences in which they were prominent due to prosody, position, both or neither. Prominence produced recall advantage, but the relative effects differed across language. For Korean listeners the positional advantage was greater, but for English listeners prosodic and syntactic prominence had equivalent and additive effects. In a further experiment semantic and phonological foils tested depth of processing of the recall targets. Both foil types were correctly rejected, suggesting that semantic processing had not reached the level at which word form was no longer available. Together the results suggest that prominence processing is primarily driven by universal effects of information structure; but language-specific differences in frequency of experience prompt different relative advantages of prominence signal types. Processing efficiency increases in each case, however, creating more accurate and more rapidly contactable memory representations.
  • Nazzi, T., & Cutler, A. (2019). How consonants and vowels shape spoken-language recognition. Annual Review of Linguistics, 5, 25-47. doi:10.1146/annurev-linguistics-011718-011919.


    All languages instantiate a consonant/vowel contrast. This contrast has processing consequences at different levels of spoken-language recognition throughout the lifespan. In adulthood, lexical processing is more strongly associated with consonant than with vowel processing; this has been demonstrated across 13 languages from seven language families and in a variety of auditory lexical-level tasks (deciding whether a spoken input is a word, spotting a real word embedded in a minimal context, reconstructing a word minimally altered into a pseudoword, learning new words or the “words” of a made-up language), as well as in written-word tasks involving phonological processing. In infancy, a consonant advantage in word learning and recognition is found to emerge during development in some languages, though possibly not in others, revealing that the stronger lexicon–consonant association found in adulthood is learned. Current research is evaluating the relative contribution of the early acquisition of the acoustic/phonetic and lexical properties of the native language in the emergence of this association
  • Cutler, A. (1976). High-stress words are easier to perceive than low-stress words, even when they are equally stressed. Texas Linguistic Forum, 2, 53-57.
  • Cutler, A. (1976). Phoneme-monitoring reaction time as a function of preceding intonation contour. Perception and Psychophysics, 20, 55-60. Retrieved from


    An acoustically invariant one-word segment occurred in two versions of one syntactic context. In one version, the preceding intonation contour indicated that a stress would fall at the point where this word occurred. In the other version, the preceding contour predicted reduced stress at that point. Reaction time to the initial phoneme of the word was faster in the former case, despite the fact that no acoustic correlates of stress were present. It is concluded that a part of the sentence comprehension process is the prediction of upcoming sentence accents.

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