Speech reductions change the dynamics of competition during spoken word recognition

Brouwer, S., Mitterer, H., & Huettig, F. (2012). Speech reductions change the dynamics of competition during spoken word recognition. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27(4), 539-571. doi:10.1080/01690965.2011.555268.
Three eye-tracking experiments investigated how phonological reductions (e.g., ‘‘puter’’ for ‘‘computer’’) modulate phonological competition. Participants listened to sentences extracted from a pontaneous speech corpus and saw four printed words: a target (e.g., ‘‘computer’’), a competitor similar to the canonical form (e.g., ‘‘companion’’), one similar to the reduced form (e.g.,
‘‘pupil’’), and an unrelated distractor. In Experiment 1, we presented canonical and reduced forms in a syllabic and in a sentence context. Listeners directed
their attention to a similar degree to both competitors independent of the
target’s spoken form. In Experiment 2, we excluded reduced forms and
presented canonical forms only. In such a listening situation, participants
showed a clear preference for the ‘‘canonical form’’ competitor. In Experiment 3, we presented canonical forms intermixed with reduced forms in a sentence context and replicated the competition pattern of Experiment 1. These data suggest that listeners penalize acoustic mismatches less strongly when listeningto reduced speech than when listening to fully articulated speech. We conclude
that flexibility to adjust to speech-intrinsic factors is a key feature of the spoken word recognition system.
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