Effects of Anticipatory Coarticulation on Lexical Access


One of the most challenging unsolved problems in cognitive science is lack of invariance in spoken language. We take the view that variability due to coarticulation is systematic and beneficial. Several recent eye tracking experiments have demonstrated listeners' sensitivity to local coarticulatory cues between adjacent phonemes. We examined sensitivity to longer-range, anticipatory vowel-to-vowel coarticulation, which can spread across multiple syllables. Using a variant of the Visual World eye tracking paradigm (Tanenhaus et al., 1995), we conducted the first on-line test of whether lexical access is sensitive to such subtle, long-range cues, and whether the impact of such cues is modulated by the coarticulation resistance of intervening segments. Lexical access was delayed when misleading anticipatory coarticulation was available in cross-spliced materials. This significantly extends the nature and temporal range of subcategorical cues known to influence on-line sentence comprehension, and demonstrates that lexical access is simultaneously constrained by information at multiple temporal grains.

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