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. (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.

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