Anne Cutler


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  • Broersma, M., & Cutler, A. (2011). Competition dynamics of second-language listening. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64, 74-95. doi:10.1080/17470218.2010.499174.


    Spoken-word recognition in a nonnative language is particularly difficult where it depends on discrimination between confusable phonemes. Four experiments here examine whether this difficulty is in part due to phantom competition from “near-words” in speech. Dutch listeners confuse English /aelig/ and /ε/, which could lead to the sequence daf being interpreted as deaf, or lemp being interpreted as lamp. In auditory lexical decision, Dutch listeners indeed accepted such near-words as real English words more often than English listeners did. In cross-modal priming, near-words extracted from word or phrase contexts (daf from DAFfodil, lemp from eviL EMPire) induced activation of corresponding real words (deaf; lamp) for Dutch, but again not for English, listeners. Finally, by the end of untruncated carrier words containing embedded words or near-words (definite; daffodil) no activation of the real embedded forms (deaf in definite) remained for English or Dutch listeners, but activation of embedded near-words (deaf in daffodil) did still remain, for Dutch listeners only. Misinterpretation of the initial vowel here favoured the phantom competitor and disfavoured the carrier (lexically represented as containing a different vowel). Thus, near-words compete for recognition and continue competing for longer than actually embedded words; nonnative listening indeed involves phantom competition.
  • Cutler, A. (2011). Listening to REAL second language. AATSEEL Newsletter, 54(3), 14.
  • Johnson, E. K., Westrek, E., Nazzi, T., & Cutler, A. (2011). Infant ability to tell voices apart rests on language experience. Developmental Science, 14(5), 1002-1011. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01052.x.


    A visual fixation study tested whether seven-month-olds can discriminate between different talkers. The infants were first habituated to talkers producing sentences in either a familiar or unfamiliar language, then heard test sentences from previously unheard speakers, either in the language used for habituation, or in another language. When the language at test mismatched that in habituation, infants always noticed the change. When language remained constant and only talker altered, however, infants detected the change only if the language was the native tongue. Adult listeners with a different native tongue than the infants did not reproduce the discriminability patterns shown by the infants, and infants detected neither voice nor language changes in reversed speech; both these results argue against explanation of the native-language voice discrimination in terms of acoustic properties of the stimuli. The ability to identify talkers is, like many other perceptual abilities, strongly influenced by early life experience.
  • Tuinman, A., Mitterer, H., & Cutler, A. (2011). Perception of intrusive /r/ in English by native, cross-language and cross-dialect listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 130, 1643-1652. doi:10.1121/1.3619793.


    In sequences such as law and order, speakers of British English often insert /r/ between law and and. Acoustic analyses revealed such “intrusive” /r/ to be significantly shorter than canonical /r/. In a 2AFC experiment, native listeners heard British English sentences in which /r/ duration was manipulated across a word boundary [e.g., saw (r)ice], and orthographic and semantic factors were varied. These listeners responded categorically on the basis of acoustic evidence for /r/ alone, reporting ice after short /r/s, rice after long /r/s; orthographic and semantic factors had no effect. Dutch listeners proficient in English who heard the same materials relied less on durational cues than the native listeners, and were affected by both orthography and semantic bias. American English listeners produced intermediate responses to the same materials, being sensitive to duration (less so than native, more so than Dutch listeners), and to orthography (less so than the Dutch), but insensitive to the semantic manipulation. Listeners from language communities without common use of intrusive /r/ may thus interpret intrusive /r/ as canonical /r/, with a language difference increasing this propensity more than a dialect difference. Native listeners, however, efficiently distinguish intrusive from canonical /r/ by exploiting the relevant acoustic variation.
  • 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

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