Effects of syllable frequency in speech production

Cholin, J., Levelt, W. J. M., & Schiller, N. O. (2006). Effects of syllable frequency in speech production. Cognition, 99, 205-235. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2005.01.009.
In the speech production model proposed by [Levelt, W. J. M., Roelofs, A., Meyer, A. S. (1999). A theory of lexical access in speech production. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 22, pp. 1-75.], syllables play a crucial role at the interface of phonological and phonetic encoding. At this interface, abstract phonological syllables are translated into phonetic syllables. It is assumed that this translation process is mediated by a so-called Mental Syllabary. Rather than constructing the motor programs for each syllable on-line, the mental syllabary is hypothesized to provide pre-compiled gestural scores for the articulators. In order to find evidence for such a repository, we investigated syllable-frequency effects: If the mental syllabary consists of retrievable representations corresponding to syllables, then the retrieval process should be sensitive to frequency differences. In a series of experiments using a symbol-position association learning task, we tested whether highfrequency syllables are retrieved and produced faster compared to low-frequency syllables. We found significant syllable frequency effects with monosyllabic pseudo-words and disyllabic pseudo-words in which the first syllable bore the frequency manipulation; no effect was found when the frequency manipulation was on the second syllable. The implications of these results for the theory of word form encoding at the interface of phonological and phonetic encoding; especially with respect to the access mechanisms to the mental syllabary in the speech production model by (Levelt et al.) are discussed.
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