Anne Cutler

Publications

Displaying 1 - 35 of 35
  • 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.
  • Akker, E., & Cutler, A. (2003). Prosodic cues to semantic structure in native and nonnative listening. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 6(2), 81-96. doi:10.1017/S1366728903001056.

    Abstract

    Listeners efficiently exploit sentence prosody to direct attention to words bearing sentence accent. This effect has been explained as a search for focus, furthering rapid apprehension of semantic structure. A first experiment supported this explanation: English listeners detected phoneme targets in sentences more rapidly when the target-bearing words were in accented position or in focussed position, but the two effects interacted, consistent with the claim that the effects serve a common cause. In a second experiment a similar asymmetry was observed with Dutch listeners and Dutch sentences. In a third and a fourth experiment, proficient Dutch users of English heard English sentences; here, however, the two effects did not interact. The results suggest that less efficient mapping of prosody to semantics may be one way in which nonnative listening fails to equal native listening.
  • Blumstein, S., & Cutler, A. (2003). Speech perception: Phonetic aspects. In W. Frawley (Ed.), International encyclopaedia of linguistics (pp. 151-154). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Cutler, A., & Butterfield, S. (2003). Rhythmic cues to speech segmentation: Evidence from juncture misperception. In J. Field (Ed.), Psycholinguistics: A resource book for students. (pp. 185-189). London: Routledge.
  • Cutler, A. (2003). The perception of speech: Psycholinguistic aspects. In W. Frawley (Ed.), International encyclopaedia of linguistics (pp. 154-157). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Johnson, E. K., Jusczyk, P. W., Cutler, A., & Norris, D. (2003). Lexical viability constraints on speech segmentation by infants. Cognitive Psychology, 46(1), 65-97. doi:10.1016/S0010-0285(02)00507-8.

    Abstract

    The Possible Word Constraint limits the number of lexical candidates considered in speech recognition by stipulating that input should be parsed into a string of lexically viable chunks. For instance, an isolated single consonant is not a feasible word candidate. Any segmentation containing such a chunk is disfavored. Five experiments using the head-turn preference procedure investigated whether, like adults, 12-month-olds observe this constraint in word recognition. In Experiments 1 and 2, infants were familiarized with target words (e.g., rush), then tested on lists of nonsense items containing these words in “possible” (e.g., “niprush” [nip + rush]) or “impossible” positions (e.g., “prush” [p + rush]). The infants listened significantly longer to targets in “possible” versus “impossible” contexts when targets occurred at the end of nonsense items (rush in “prush”), but not when they occurred at the beginning (tan in “tance”). In Experiments 3 and 4, 12-month-olds were similarly familiarized with target words, but test items were real words in sentential contexts (win in “wind” versus “window”). The infants listened significantly longer to words in the “possible” condition regardless of target location. Experiment 5 with targets at the beginning of isolated real words (e.g., win in “wind”) replicated Experiment 2 in showing no evidence of viability effects in beginning position. Taken together, the findings suggest that, in situations in which 12-month-olds are required to rely on their word segmentation abilities, they give evidence of observing lexical viability constraints in the way that they parse fluent speech.
  • McQueen, J. M., Dahan, D., & Cutler, A. (2003). Continuity and gradedness in speech processing. In N. O. Schiller, & A. S. Meyer (Eds.), Phonetics and phonology in language comprehension and production: Differences and similarities (pp. 39-78). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • McQueen, J. M., Cutler, A., & Norris, D. (2003). Flow of information in the spoken word recognition system. Speech Communication, 41(1), 257-270. doi:10.1016/S0167-6393(02)00108-5.

    Abstract

    Spoken word recognition consists of two major component processes. First, at the prelexical stage, an abstract description of the utterance is generated from the information in the speech signal. Second, at the lexical stage, this description is used to activate all the words stored in the mental lexicon which match the input. These multiple candidate words then compete with each other. We review evidence which suggests that positive (match) and negative (mismatch) information of both a segmental and a suprasegmental nature is used to constrain this activation and competition process. We then ask whether, in addition to the necessary influence of the prelexical stage on the lexical stage, there is also feedback from the lexicon to the prelexical level. In two phonetic categorization experiments, Dutch listeners were asked to label both syllable-initial and syllable-final ambiguous fricatives (e.g., sounds ranging from [f] to [s]) in the word–nonword series maf–mas, and the nonword–word series jaf–jas. They tended to label the sounds in a lexically consistent manner (i.e., consistent with the word endpoints of the series). These lexical effects became smaller in listeners’ slower responses, even when the listeners were put under pressure to respond as fast as possible. Our results challenge models of spoken word recognition in which feedback modulates the prelexical analysis of the component sounds of a word whenever that word is heard
  • Norris, D., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2003). Perceptual learning in speech. Cognitive Psychology, 47(2), 204-238. doi:10.1016/S0010-0285(03)00006-9.

    Abstract

    This study demonstrates that listeners use lexical knowledge in perceptual learning of speech sounds. Dutch listeners first made lexical decisions on Dutch words and nonwords. The final fricative of 20 critical words had been replaced by an ambiguous sound, between [f] and [s]. One group of listeners heard ambiguous [f]-final words (e.g., [WI tlo?], from witlof, chicory) and unambiguous [s]-final words (e.g., naaldbos, pine forest). Another group heard the reverse (e.g., ambiguous [na:ldbo?], unambiguous witlof). Listeners who had heard [?] in [f]-final words were subsequently more likely to categorize ambiguous sounds on an [f]–[s] continuum as [f] than those who heard [?] in [s]-final words. Control conditions ruled out alternative explanations based on selective adaptation and contrast. Lexical information can thus be used to train categorization of speech. This use of lexical information differs from the on-line lexical feedback embodied in interactive models of speech perception. In contrast to on-line feedback, lexical feedback for learning is of benefit to spoken word recognition (e.g., in adapting to a newly encountered dialect).
  • Otake, T., & Cutler, A. (2003). Evidence against "units of perception". In S. Shohov (Ed.), Advances in psychology research (pp. 57-82). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science.
  • Smits, R., Warner, N., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2003). Unfolding of phonetic information over time: A database of Dutch diphone perception. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 113(1), 563-574. doi:10.1121/1.1525287.

    Abstract

    We present the results of a large-scale study on speech perception, assessing the number and type of perceptual hypotheses which listeners entertain about possible phoneme sequences in their language. Dutch listeners were asked to identify gated fragments of all 1179 diphones of Dutch, providing a total of 488 520 phoneme categorizations. The results manifest orderly uptake of acoustic information in the signal. Differences across phonemes in the rate at which fully correct recognition was achieved arose as a result of whether or not potential confusions could occur with other phonemes of the language ~long with short vowels, affricates with their initial components, etc.!. These data can be used to improve models of how acoustic phonetic information is mapped onto the mental lexicon during speech comprehension.
  • Spinelli, E., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2003). Processing resyllabified words in French. Journal of Memory and Language, 48(2), 233-254. doi:10.1016/S0749-596X(02)00513-2.
  • Weber, A., & Cutler, A. (2003). Perceptual similarity co-existing with lexical dissimilarity [Abstract]. Abstracts of the 146th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 114(4 Pt. 2), 2422. doi:10.1121/1.1601094.

    Abstract

    The extreme case of perceptual similarity is indiscriminability, as when two second‐language phonemes map to a single native category. An example is the English had‐head vowel contrast for Dutch listeners; Dutch has just one such central vowel, transcribed [E]. We examine whether the failure to discriminate in phonetic categorization implies indiscriminability in other—e.g., lexical—processing. Eyetracking experiments show that Dutch‐native listeners instructed in English to ‘‘click on the panda’’ look (significantly more than native listeners) at a pictured pencil, suggesting that pan‐ activates their lexical representation of pencil. The reverse, however, is not the case: ‘‘click on the pencil’’ does not induce looks to a panda, suggesting that pen‐ does not activate panda in the lexicon. Thus prelexically undiscriminated second‐language distinctions can nevertheless be maintained in stored lexical representations. The problem of mapping a resulting unitary input to two distinct categories in lexical representations is solved by allowing input to activate only one second‐language category. For Dutch listeners to English, this is English [E], as a result of which no vowels in the signal ever map to words containing [ae]. We suggest that the choice of category is here motivated by a more abstract, phonemic, metric of similarity.
  • Cutler, A., Sebastian-Galles, N., Soler-Vilageliu, O., & Van Ooijen, B. (2000). Constraints of vowels and consonants on lexical selection: Cross-linguistic comparisons. Memory & Cognition, 28, 746-755.

    Abstract

    Languages differ in the constitution of their phonemic repertoire and in the relative distinctiveness of phonemes within the repertoire. In the present study, we asked whether such differences constrain spoken-word recognition, via two word reconstruction experiments, in which listeners turned non-words into real words by changing single sounds. The experiments were carried out in Dutch (which has a relatively balanced vowel-consonant ratio and many similar vowels) and in Spanish (which has many more consonants than vowels and high distinctiveness among the vowels). Both Dutch and Spanish listeners responded significantly faster and more accurately when required to change vowels as opposed to consonants; when allowed to change any phoneme, they more often altered vowels than consonants. Vowel information thus appears to constrain lexical selection less tightly (allow more potential candidates) than does consonant information, independent of language-specific phoneme repertoire and of relative distinctiveness of vowels.
  • Cutler, A., & Van de Weijer, J. (2000). De ontdekking van de eerste woorden. Stem-, Spraak- en Taalpathologie, 9, 245-259.

    Abstract

    Spraak is continu, er zijn geen betrouwbare signalen waardoor de luisteraar weet waar het ene woord eindigt en het volgende begint. Voor volwassen luisteraars is het segmenteren van gesproken taal in afzonderlijke woorden dus niet onproblematisch, maar voor een kind dat nog geen woordenschat bezit, vormt de continuïteit van spraak een nog grotere uitdaging. Desalniettemin produceren de meeste kinderen hun eerste herkenbare woorden rond het begin van het tweede levensjaar. Aan deze vroege spraakproducties gaat een formidabele perceptuele prestatie vooraf. Tijdens het eerste levensjaar - met name gedurende de tweede helft - ontwikkelt de spraakperceptie zich van een algemeen fonetisch discriminatievermogen tot een selectieve gevoeligheid voor de fonologische contrasten die in de moedertaal voorkomen. Recent onderzoek heeft verder aangetoond dat kinderen, lang voordat ze ook maar een enkel woord kunnen zeggen, in staat zijn woorden die kenmerkend zijn voor hun moedertaal te onderscheiden van woorden die dat niet zijn. Bovendien kunnen ze woorden die eerst in isolatie werden aangeboden herkennen in een continue spraakcontext. Het dagelijkse taalaanbod aan een kind van deze leeftijd maakt het in zekere zin niet gemakkelijk, bijvoorbeeld doordat de meeste woorden niet in isolatie voorkomen. Toch wordt het kind ook wel houvast geboden, onder andere doordat het woordgebruik beperkt is.
  • Cutler, A. (2000). Hoe het woord het oor verovert. In Voordrachten uitgesproken tijdens de uitreiking van de SPINOZA-premies op 15 februari 2000 (pp. 29-41). The Hague, The Netherlands: Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO).
  • Cutler, A. (2000). How the ear comes to hear. In New Trends in Modern Linguistics [Part of Annual catalogue series] (pp. 6-10). Tokyo, Japan: Maruzen Publishers.
  • Cutler, A. (2000). Real words, phantom words and impossible words. In D. Burnham, S. Luksaneeyanawin, C. Davis, & M. Lafourcade (Eds.), Interdisciplinary approaches to language processing: The international conference on human and machine processing of language and speech (pp. 32-42). Bangkok: NECTEC.
  • Houston, D. M., Jusczyk, P. W., Kuijpers, C., Coolen, R., & Cutler, A. (2000). Cross-language word segmentation by 9-month-olds. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 7, 504-509.

    Abstract

    Dutch-learning and English-learning 9-month-olds were tested, using the Headturn Preference Procedure, for their ability to segment Dutch words with strong/weak stress patterns from fluent Dutch speech. This prosodic pattern is highly typical for words of both languages. The infants were familiarized with pairs of words and then tested on four passages, two that included the familiarized words and two that did not. Both the Dutch- and the English-learning infants gave evidence of segmenting the targets from the passages, to an equivalent degree. Thus, English-learning infants are able to extract words from fluent speech in a language that is phonetically different from English. We discuss the possibility that this cross-language segmentation ability is aided by the similarity of the typical rhythmic structure of Dutch and English words.
  • Norris, D., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2000). Feedback on feedback on feedback: It’s feedforward. (Response to commentators). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 352-370.

    Abstract

    The central thesis of the target article was that feedback is never necessary in spoken word recognition. The commentaries present no new data and no new theoretical arguments which lead us to revise this position. In this response we begin by clarifying some terminological issues which have lead to a number of significant misunderstandings. We provide some new arguments to support our case that the feedforward model Merge is indeed more parsimonious than the interactive alternatives, and that it provides a more convincing account of the data than alternative models. Finally, we extend the arguments to deal with new issues raised by the commentators such as infant speech perception and neural architecture.
  • Norris, D., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2000). Merging information in speech recognition: Feedback is never necessary. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 299-325.

    Abstract

    Top-down feedback does not benefit speech recognition; on the contrary, it can hinder it. No experimental data imply that feedback loops are required for speech recognition. Feedback is accordingly unnecessary and spoken word recognition is modular. To defend this thesis, we analyse lexical involvement in phonemic decision making. TRACE (McClelland & Elman 1986), a model with feedback from the lexicon to prelexical processes, is unable to account for all the available data on phonemic decision making. The modular Race model (Cutler & Norris 1979) is likewise challenged by some recent results, however. We therefore present a new modular model of phonemic decision making, the Merge model. In Merge, information flows from prelexical processes to the lexicon without feedback. Because phonemic decisions are based on the merging of prelexical and lexical information, Merge correctly predicts lexical involvement in phonemic decisions in both words and nonwords. Computer simulations show how Merge is able to account for the data through a process of competition between lexical hypotheses. We discuss the issue of feedback in other areas of language processing and conclude that modular models are particularly well suited to the problems and constraints of speech recognition.
  • 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., 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., 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.

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