Metrical expectations from preceding prosody influence spoken word recognition


Two visual world experiments tested the hypothesis that expectations based on preceding prosody influence the perception of suprasegmental cues to lexical stress. Experiment 1 showed that phonemically overlapping words with different initial stress patterns compete for recognition. Experiment 2 further demonstrated that fundamental frequency and syllable timing patterns across material preceding the target word can influence the relative activation of competing alternatives with different initial stress patterns. The activation of alternatives with initial stress was higher when preceding stressed syllables had suprasegmental acoustic characteristics similar to the initial syllable of the target word. These findings suggest that expectations about the acoustic realization of an utterance include information about metrical organization and lexical stress, and that these expectations constrain the initial interpretation of suprasegmental stress cues. These results are interpreted as support for expectation-based forward models in which acoustic information in the speech stream is interpreted based on expectations created by prosody.

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