Anne Cutler

Publications

Displaying 1 - 33 of 33
  • 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.

    Abstract

    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
  • Ip, M. H. K., & Cutler, A. (2018). Asymmetric efficiency of juncture perception in L1 and L2. In K. Klessa, J. Bachan, A. Wagner, M. Karpiński, & D. Śledziński (Eds.), Proceedings of Speech Prosody 2018 (pp. 289-296). Baixas, France: ISCA. doi:10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-59.

    Abstract

    In two experiments, Mandarin listeners resolved potential syntactic ambiguities in spoken utterances in (a) their native language (L1) and (b) English which they had learned as a second language (L2). A new disambiguation task was used, requiring speeded responses to select the correct meaning for structurally ambiguous sentences. Importantly, the ambiguities used in the study are identical in Mandarin and in English, and production data show that prosodic disambiguation of this type of ambiguity is also realised very similarly in the two languages. The perceptual results here showed however that listeners’ response patterns differed for L1 and L2, although there was a significant increase in similarity between the two response patterns with increasing exposure to the L2. Thus identical ambiguity and comparable disambiguation patterns in L1 and L2 do not lead to immediate application of the appropriate L1 listening strategy to L2; instead, it appears that such a strategy may have to be learned anew for the L2.
  • Ip, M. H. K., & Cutler, A. (2018). Cue equivalence in prosodic entrainment for focus detection. In J. Epps, J. Wolfe, J. Smith, & C. Jones (Eds.), Proceedings of the 17th Australasian International Conference on Speech Science and Technology (pp. 153-156).

    Abstract

    Using a phoneme detection task, the present series of experiments examines whether listeners can entrain to different combinations of prosodic cues to predict where focus will fall in an utterance. The stimuli were recorded by four female native speakers of Australian English who happened to have used different prosodic cues to produce sentences with prosodic focus: a combination of duration cues, mean and maximum F0, F0 range, and longer pre-target interval before the focused word onset, only mean F0 cues, only pre-target interval, and only duration cues. Results revealed that listeners can entrain in almost every condition except for where duration was the only reliable cue. Our findings suggest that listeners are flexible in the cues they use for focus processing.
  • Cutler, A., Burchfield, L. A., & Antoniou, M. (2018). Factors affecting talker adaptation in a second language. In J. Epps, J. Wolfe, J. Smith, & C. Jones (Eds.), Proceedings of the 17th Australasian International Conference on Speech Science and Technology (pp. 33-36).

    Abstract

    Listeners adapt rapidly to previously unheard talkers by adjusting phoneme categories using lexical knowledge, in a process termed lexically-guided perceptual learning. Although this is firmly established for listening in the native language (L1), perceptual flexibility in second languages (L2) is as yet less well understood. We report two experiments examining L1 and L2 perceptual learning, the first in Mandarin-English late bilinguals, the second in Australian learners of Mandarin. Both studies showed stronger learning in L1; in L2, however, learning appeared for the English-L1 group but not for the Mandarin-L1 group. Phonological mapping differences from the L1 to the L2 are suggested as the reason for this result.
  • Cutler, A., & Farrell, J. (2018). Listening in first and second language. In J. I. Liontas (Ed.), The TESOL encyclopedia of language teaching. New York: Wiley. doi:10.1002/9781118784235.eelt0583.

    Abstract

    Listeners' recognition of spoken language involves complex decoding processes: The continuous speech stream must be segmented into its component words, and words must be recognized despite great variability in their pronunciation (due to talker differences, or to influence of phonetic context, or to speech register) and despite competition from many spuriously present forms supported by the speech signal. L1 listeners deal more readily with all levels of this complexity than L2 listeners. Fortunately, the decoding processes necessary for competent L2 listening can be taught in the classroom. Evidence-based methodologies targeted at the development of efficient speech decoding include teaching of minimal pairs, of phonotactic constraints, and of reduction processes, as well as the use of dictation and L2 video captions.
  • 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.

    Abstract

    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.

    Abstract

    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., & McQueen, J. M. (2014). How prosody is both mandatory and optional. In J. Caspers, Y. Chen, W. Heeren, J. Pacilly, N. O. Schiller, & E. Van Zanten (Eds.), Above and Beyond the Segments: Experimental linguistics and phonetics (pp. 71-82). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Speech signals originate as a sequence of linguistic units selected by speakers, but these units are necessarily realised in the suprasegmental dimensions of time, frequency and amplitude. For this reason prosodic structure has been viewed as a mandatory target of language processing by both speakers and listeners. In apparent contradiction, however, prosody has also been argued to be ancillary rather than core linguistic structure, making processing of prosodic structure essentially optional. In the present tribute to one of the luminaries of prosodic research for the past quarter century, we review evidence from studies of the processing of lexical stress and focal accent which reconciles these views and shows that both claims are, each in their own way, fully true.
  • Cutler, A. (2014). In thrall to the vocabulary. Acoustics Australia, 42, 84-89.

    Abstract

    Vocabularies contain hundreds of thousands of words built from only a handful of phonemes; longer words inevitably tend to contain shorter ones. Recognising speech thus requires distinguishing intended words from accidentally present ones. Acoustic information in speech is used wherever it contributes significantly to this process; but as this review shows, its contribution differs across languages, with the consequences of this including: identical and equivalently present information distinguishing the same phonemes being used in Polish but not in German, or in English but not in Italian; identical stress cues being used in Dutch but not in English; expectations about likely embedding patterns differing across English, French, Japanese.
  • Junge, C., & Cutler, A. (2014). Early word recognition and later language skills. Brain sciences, 4(4), 532-559. doi:10.3390/brainsci4040532.

    Abstract

    Recent behavioral and electrophysiological evidence has highlighted the long-term importance for language skills of an early ability to recognize words in continuous speech. We here present further tests of this long-term link in the form of follow-up studies conducted with two (separate) groups of infants who had earlier participated in speech segmentation tasks. Each study extends prior follow-up tests: Study 1 by using a novel follow-up measure that taps into online processing, Study 2 by assessing language performance relationships over a longer time span than previously tested. Results of Study 1 show that brain correlates of speech segmentation ability at 10 months are positively related to 16-month-olds’ target fixations in a looking-while-listening task. Results of Study 2 show that infant speech segmentation ability no longer directly predicts language profiles at the age of five. However, a meta-analysis across our results and those of similar studies (Study 3) reveals that age at follow-up does not moderate effect size. Together, the results suggest that infants’ ability to recognize words in speech certainly benefits early vocabulary development; further observed relationships of later language skills to early word recognition may be consequent upon this vocabulary size effect.
  • Junge, C., Cutler, A., & Hagoort, P. (2014). Successful word recognition by 10-month-olds given continuous speech both at initial exposure and test. Infancy, 19(2), 179-193. doi:10.1111/infa.12040.

    Abstract

    Most words that infants hear occur within fluent speech. To compile a vocabulary, infants therefore need to segment words from speech contexts. This study is the first to investigate whether infants (here: 10-month-olds) can recognize words when both initial exposure and test presentation are in continuous speech. Electrophysiological evidence attests that this indeed occurs: An increased extended negativity (word recognition effect) appears for familiarized target words relative to control words. This response proved constant at the individual level: Only infants who showed this negativity at test had shown such a response, within six repetitions after first occurrence, during familiarization.
  • Tuinman, A., Mitterer, H., & Cutler, A. (2014). Use of syntax in perceptual compensation for phonological reduction. Language and Speech, 57, 68-85. doi:10.1177/0023830913479106.

    Abstract

    Listeners resolve ambiguity in speech by consulting context. Extensive research on this issue has largely relied on continua of sounds constructed to vary incrementally between two phonemic endpoints. In this study we presented listeners instead with phonetic ambiguity of a kind with which they have natural experience: varying degrees of word-final /t/-reduction. In two experiments, Dutch listeners decided whether or not the verb in a sentence such as Maar zij ren(t) soms ‘But she sometimes run(s)’ ended in /t/. In Dutch, presence versus absence of final /t/ distinguishes third- from first-person singular present-tense verbs. Acoustic evidence for /t/ varied from clear to absent, and immediately preceding phonetic context was consistent with more versus less likely deletion of /t/. In both experiments, listeners reported more /t/s in sentences in which /t/ would be syntactically correct. In Experiment 1, the disambiguating syntactic information preceded the target verb, as above, while in Experiment 2, it followed the verb. The syntactic bias was greater for fast than for slow responses in Experiment 1, but no such difference appeared in Experiment 2. We conclude that syntactic information does not directly influence pre-lexical processing, but is called upon in making phoneme decisions.
  • Van der Zande, P., Jesse, A., & Cutler, A. (2014). Cross-speaker generalisation in two phoneme-level perceptual adaptation processes. Journal of Phonetics, 43, 38-46. doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2014.01.003.

    Abstract

    Speech perception is shaped by listeners' prior experience with speakers. Listeners retune their phonetic category boundaries after encountering ambiguous sounds in order to deal with variations between speakers. Repeated exposure to an unambiguous sound, on the other hand, leads to a decrease in sensitivity to the features of that particular sound. This study investigated whether these changes in the listeners' perceptual systems can generalise to the perception of speech from a novel speaker. Specifically, the experiments looked at whether visual information about the identity of the speaker could prevent generalisation from occurring. In Experiment 1, listeners retuned auditory category boundaries using audiovisual speech input. This shift in the category boundaries affected perception of speech from both the exposure speaker and a novel speaker. In Experiment 2, listeners were repeatedly exposed to unambiguous speech either auditorily or audiovisually, leading to a decrease in sensitivity to the features of the exposure sound. Here, too, the changes affected the perception of both the exposure speaker and the novel speaker. Together, these results indicate that changes in the perceptual system can affect the perception of speech from a novel speaker and that visual speaker identity information did not prevent this generalisation.
  • Van der Zande, P., Jesse, A., & Cutler, A. (2014). Hearing words helps seeing words: A cross-modal word repetition effect. Speech Communication, 59, 31-43. doi:10.1016/j.specom.2014.01.001.

    Abstract

    Watching a speaker say words benefits subsequent auditory recognition of the same words. In this study, we tested whether hearing words also facilitates subsequent phonological processing from visual speech, and if so, whether speaker repetition influences the magnitude of this word repetition priming. We used long-term cross-modal repetition priming as a means to investigate the underlying lexical representations involved in listening to and seeing speech. In Experiment 1, listeners identified auditory-only words during exposure and visual-only words at test. Words at test were repeated or new and produced by the exposure speaker or a novel speaker. Results showed a significant effect of cross-modal word repetition priming but this was unaffected by speaker changes. Experiment 2 added an explicit recognition task at test. Listeners’ lipreading performance was again improved by prior exposure to auditory words. Explicit recognition memory was poor, and neither word repetition nor speaker repetition improved it. This suggests that cross-modal repetition priming is neither mediated by explicit memory nor improved by speaker information. Our results suggest that phonological representations in the lexicon are shared across auditory and visual processing, and that speaker information is not transferred across modalities at the lexical level.
  • Warner, N., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2014). Tracking perception of the sounds of English. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 135, 2295-3006. doi:10.1121/1.4870486.

    Abstract

    Twenty American English listeners identified gated fragments of all 2288 possible English within-word and cross-word diphones, providing a total of 538 560 phoneme categorizations. The results show orderly uptake of acoustic information in the signal and provide a view of where information about segments occurs in time. Information locus depends on each speech sound’s identity and phonological features. Affricates and diphthongs have highly localized information so that listeners’ perceptual accuracy rises during a confined time range. Stops and sonorants have more distributed and gradually appearing information. The identity and phonological features (e.g., vowel vs consonant) of the neighboring segment also influences when acoustic information about a segment is available. Stressed vowels are perceived significantly more accurately than unstressed vowels, but this effect is greater for lax vowels than for tense vowels or diphthongs. The dataset charts the availability of perceptual cues to segment identity across time for the full phoneme repertoire of English in all attested phonetic contexts.
  • Burnham, D., Ambikairajah, E., Arciuli, J., Bennamoun, M., Best, C. T., Bird, S., Butcher, A. R., Cassidy, S., Chetty, G., Cox, F. M., Cutler, A., Dale, R., Epps, J. R., Fletcher, J. M., Goecke, R., Grayden, D. B., Hajek, J. T., Ingram, J. C., Ishihara, S., Kemp, N. and 10 moreBurnham, D., Ambikairajah, E., Arciuli, J., Bennamoun, M., Best, C. T., Bird, S., Butcher, A. R., Cassidy, S., Chetty, G., Cox, F. M., Cutler, A., Dale, R., Epps, J. R., Fletcher, J. M., Goecke, R., Grayden, D. B., Hajek, J. T., Ingram, J. C., Ishihara, S., Kemp, N., Kinoshita, Y., Kuratate, T., Lewis, T. W., Loakes, D. E., Onslow, M., Powers, D. M., Rose, P., Togneri, R., Tran, D., & Wagner, M. (2009). A blueprint for a comprehensive Australian English auditory-visual speech corpus. In M. Haugh, K. Burridge, J. Mulder, & P. Peters (Eds.), Selected proceedings of the 2008 HCSNet Workshop on Designing the Australian National Corpus (pp. 96-107). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

    Abstract

    Large auditory-visual (AV) speech corpora are the grist of modern research in speech science, but no such corpus exists for Australian English. This is unfortunate, for speech science is the brains behind speech technology and applications such as text-to-speech (TTS) synthesis, automatic speech recognition (ASR), speaker recognition and forensic identification, talking heads, and hearing prostheses. Advances in these research areas in Australia require a large corpus of Australian English. Here the authors describe a blueprint for building the Big Australian Speech Corpus (the Big ASC), a corpus of over 1,100 speakers from urban and rural Australia, including speakers of non-indigenous, indigenous, ethnocultural, and disordered forms of Australian English, each of whom would be sampled on three occasions in a range of speech tasks designed by the researchers who would be using the corpus.
  • Cutler, A. (2009). Greater sensitivity to prosodic goodness in non-native than in native listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 125, 3522-3525. doi:10.1121/1.3117434.

    Abstract

    English listeners largely disregard suprasegmental cues to stress in recognizing words. Evidence for this includes the demonstration of Fear et al. [J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 97, 1893–1904 (1995)] that cross-splicings are tolerated between stressed and unstressed full vowels (e.g., au- of autumn, automata). Dutch listeners, however, do exploit suprasegmental stress cues in recognizing native-language words. In this study, Dutch listeners were presented with English materials from the study of Fear et al. Acceptability ratings by these listeners revealed sensitivity to suprasegmental mismatch, in particular, in replacements of unstressed full vowels by higher-stressed vowels, thus evincing greater sensitivity to prosodic goodness than had been shown by the original native listener group.
  • Cutler, A., Davis, C., & Kim, J. (2009). Non-automaticity of use of orthographic knowledge in phoneme evaluation. In Proceedings of the 10th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association (Interspeech 2009) (pp. 380-383). Causal Productions Pty Ltd.

    Abstract

    Two phoneme goodness rating experiments addressed the role of orthographic knowledge in the evaluation of speech sounds. Ratings for the best tokens of /s/ were higher in words spelled with S (e.g., bless) than in words where /s/ was spelled with C (e.g., voice). This difference did not appear for analogous nonwords for which every lexical neighbour had either S or C spelling (pless, floice). Models of phonemic processing incorporating obligatory influence of lexical information in phonemic processing cannot explain this dissociation; the data are consistent with models in which phonemic decisions are not subject to necessary top-down lexical influence.
  • Cutler, A. (2009). Psycholinguistics in our time. In P. Rabbitt (Ed.), Inside psychology: A science over 50 years (pp. 91-101). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Cutler, A., Otake, T., & McQueen, J. M. (2009). Vowel devoicing and the perception of spoken Japanese words. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 125(3), 1693-1703. doi:10.1121/1.3075556.

    Abstract

    Three experiments, in which Japanese listeners detected Japanese words embedded in nonsense sequences, examined the perceptual consequences of vowel devoicing in that language. Since vowelless sequences disrupt speech segmentation [Norris et al. (1997). Cognit. Psychol. 34, 191– 243], devoicing is potentially problematic for perception. Words in initial position in nonsense sequences were detected more easily when followed by a sequence containing a vowel than by a vowelless segment (with or without further context), and vowelless segments that were potential devoicing environments were no easier than those not allowing devoicing. Thus asa, “morning,” was easier in asau or asazu than in all of asap, asapdo, asaf, or asafte, despite the fact that the /f/ in the latter two is a possible realization of fu, with devoiced [u]. Japanese listeners thus do not treat devoicing contexts as if they always contain vowels. Words in final position in nonsense sequences, however, produced a different pattern: here, preceding vowelless contexts allowing devoicing impeded word detection less strongly (so, sake was detected less accurately, but not less rapidly, in nyaksake—possibly arising from nyakusake—than in nyagusake). This is consistent with listeners treating consonant sequences as potential realizations of parts of existing lexical candidates wherever possible.
  • Kooijman, V., Hagoort, P., & Cutler, A. (2009). Prosodic structure in early word segmentation: ERP evidence from Dutch ten-month-olds. Infancy, 14, 591 -612. doi:10.1080/15250000903263957.

    Abstract

    Recognizing word boundaries in continuous speech requires detailed knowledge of the native language. In the first year of life, infants acquire considerable word segmentation abilities. Infants at this early stage in word segmentation rely to a large extent on the metrical pattern of their native language, at least in stress-based languages. In Dutch and English (both languages with a preferred trochaic stress pattern), segmentation of strong-weak words develops rapidly between 7 and 10 months of age. Nevertheless, trochaic languages contain not only strong-weak words but also words with a weak-strong stress pattern. In this article, we present electrophysiological evidence of the beginnings of weak-strong word segmentation in Dutch 10-month-olds. At this age, the ability to combine different cues for efficient word segmentation does not yet seem to be completely developed. We provide evidence that Dutch infants still largely rely on strong syllables, even for the segmentation of weak-strong words.
  • Tyler, M., & Cutler, A. (2009). Cross-language differences in cue use for speech segmentation. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 126, 367-376. doi:10.1121/1.3129127.

    Abstract

    Two artificial-language learning experiments directly compared English, French, and Dutch listeners’ use of suprasegmental cues for continuous-speech segmentation. In both experiments, listeners heard unbroken sequences of consonant-vowel syllables, composed of recurring three- and four-syllable “words.” These words were demarcated by(a) no cue other than transitional probabilities induced by their recurrence, (b) a consistent left-edge cue, or (c) a consistent right-edge cue. Experiment 1 examined a vowel lengthening cue. All three listener groups benefited from this cue in right-edge position; none benefited from it in left-edge position. Experiment 2 examined a pitch-movement cue. English listeners used this cue in left-edge position, French listeners used it in right-edge position, and Dutch listeners used it in both positions. These findings are interpreted as evidence of both language-universal and language-specific effects. Final lengthening is a language-universal effect expressing a more general (non-linguistic) mechanism. Pitch movement expresses prominence which has characteristically different placements across languages: typically at right edges in French, but at left edges in English and Dutch. Finally, stress realization in English versus Dutch encourages greater attention to suprasegmental variation by Dutch than by English listeners, allowing Dutch listeners to benefit from an informative pitch-movement cue even in an uncharacteristic position.
  • Cutler, A. (1981). Degrees of transparency in word formation. Canadian Journal of Linguistics, 26, 73-77.
  • Cutler, A. (1981). Making up materials is a confounded nuisance, or: Will we able to run any psycholinguistic experiments at all in 1990? Cognition, 10, 65-70. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(81)90026-3.
  • Cutler, A., & Darwin, C. J. (1981). Phoneme-monitoring reaction time and preceding prosody: Effects of stop closure duration and of fundamental frequency. Perception and Psychophysics, 29, 217-224. Retrieved from http://www.psychonomic.org/search/view.cgi?id=12660.

    Abstract

    In an earlier study, it was shown that listeners can use prosodic cues that predict where sentence stress will fall; phoneme-monitoring RTs are faster when the preceding prosody indicates that the word bearing the target will be stressed. Two experiments which further investigate this effect are described. In the first, it is shown that the duration of the closure preceding the release of the target stop consonant burst does not affect the RT advantage for stressed words. In the second, it is shown that fundamental frequency variation is not a necessary component of the prosodic variation that produces the predicted-stress effect. It is argued that sentence processing involves a very flexible use of prosodic information.
  • Cutler, A. (1981). The cognitive reality of suprasegmental phonology. In T. Myers, J. Laver, & J. Anderson (Eds.), The cognitive representation of speech (pp. 399-400). Amsterdam: North-Holland.
  • Cutler, A. (1981). The reliability of speech error data. Linguistics, 19, 561-582.
  • Fodor, J. A., & Cutler, A. (1981). Semantic focus and sentence comprehension. Cognition, 7, 49-59. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(79)90010-6.

    Abstract

    Reaction time to detect a phoneme target in a sentence was found to be faster when the word in which the target occurred formed part of the semantic focus of the sentence. Focus was determined by asking a question before the sentence; that part of the sentence which comprised the answer to the sentence was assumed to be focussed. This procedure made it possible to vary position offocus within the sentence while holding all acoustic aspects of the sentence itself constant. It is argued that sentence understanding is facilitated by rapid identification of focussed information. Since focussed words are usually accented, it is further argued that the active search for accented words demonstrated in previous research should be interpreted as a search for semantic focus.
  • Garnham, A., Shillcock, R. C., Brown, G. D. A., Mill, A. I. D., & Cutler, A. (1981). Slips of the tongue in the London-Lund corpus of spontaneous conversation. Linguistics, 19, 805-817.
  • Cutler, A., & Fay, D. A. (Eds.). (1978). [Annotated re-issue of R. Meringer and C. Mayer: Versprechen und Verlesen, 1895]. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Cutler, A., & Fay, D. (1978). Introduction. In A. Cutler, & D. Fay (Eds.), [Annotated re-issue of R. Meringer and C. Mayer: Versprechen und Verlesen, 1895] (pp. ix-xl). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Cutler, A., & Cooper, W. E. (1978). Phoneme-monitoring in the context of different phonetic sequences. Journal of Phonetics, 6, 221-225.

    Abstract

    The order of some conjoined words is rigidly fixed (e.g. dribs and drabs/*drabs and dribs). Both phonetic and semantic factors can play a role in determining the fixed order. An experiment was conducted to test whether listerners’ reaction times for monitoring a predetermined phoneme are influenced by phonetic constraints on ordering. Two such constraints were investigated: monosyllable-bissyllable and high-low vowel sequences. In English, conjoined words occur in such sequences with much greater frequency than their converses, other factors being equal. Reaction times were significantly shorter for phoneme monitoring in monosyllable-bisyllable sequences than in bisyllable- monosyllable sequences. However, reaction times were not significantly different for high-low vs. low-high vowel sequences.

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