Language-universal constraints on speech segmentation

Norris, D., McQueen, J. M., Cutler, A., Butterfield, S., & Kearns, R. (2001). Language-universal constraints on speech segmentation. Language and Cognitive Processes, 16, 637-660. doi:10.1080/01690960143000119.
Two word-spotting experiments are reported that examine whether the Possible-Word Constraint (PWC) is a language-specific or language-universal strategy for the segmentation of continuous speech. The PWC disfavours parses which leave an impossible residue between the end of a candidate word and any likely location of a word boundary, as cued in the speech signal. The experiments examined cases where the residue was either a CVC syllable with a schwa, or a CV syllable with a lax vowel. Although neither of these syllable contexts is a possible lexical word in English, word-spotting in both contexts was easier than in a context consisting of a single consonant. Two control lexical-decision experiments showed that the word-spotting results reflected the relative segmentation difficulty of the words in different contexts. The PWC appears to be language-universal rather than language-specific.
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