The monolingual nature of speech segmentation by bilinguals
Cutler, A., Mehler, J., Norris, D., & Segui, J.
The monolingual nature of speech segmentation by bilinguals. Cognitive Psychology, 24
Monolingual French speakers employ a syllable-based procedure in speech segmentation; monolingual English speakers use a stress-based segmentation procedure and do not use the syllable-based procedure. In the present study French-English bilinguals participated in segmentation experiments with English and French materials. Their results as a group did not simply mimic the performance of English monolinguals with English language materials and of French monolinguals with French language materials. Instead, the bilinguals formed two groups, defined by forced choice of a dominant language. Only the French-dominant group showed syllabic segmentation and only with French language materials. The English-dominant group showed no syllabic segmentation in either language. However, the English-dominant group showed stress-based segmentation with English language materials; the French-dominant group did not. We argue that rhythmically based segmentation procedures are mutually exclusive, as a consequence of which speech segmentation by bilinguals is, in one respect at least, functionally monolingual.