Rhythmic cues to speech segmentation: Evidence from juncture misperception
Cutler, A., & Butterfield, S.
Rhythmic cues to speech segmentation: Evidence from juncture misperception. Journal of Memory and Language, 31
, 218-236. doi:10.1016/0749-596X(92)90012-M.
Segmentation of continuous speech into its component words is a nontrivial task for listeners. Previous work has suggested that listeners develop heuristic segmentation procedures based on experience with the structure of their language; for English, the heuristic is that strong syllables (containing full vowels) are most likely to be the initial syllables of lexical words, whereas weak syllables (containing central, or reduced, vowels) are nonword-initial, or, if word-initial, are grammatical words. This hypothesis is here tested against natural and laboratory-induced missegmentations of continuous speech. Precisely the expected pattern is found: listeners erroneously insert boundaries before strong syllables but delete them before weak syllables; boundaries inserted before strong syllables produce lexical words, while boundaries inserted before weak syllables produce grammatical words.