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Auditory disruption improves word segmentation: A functional basis for lenition phenomena

Katz, Jonah and Fricke, Melinda (2018) Auditory disruption improves word segmentation: A functional basis for lenition phenomena. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 3 (1). p. 38. ISSN 2397-1835

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This paper presents evidence that 'spirantization', a cross-linguistically common lenition process, affects English listeners’ ease of segmenting novel “words” in an artificial language. The cross-linguistically common spirantization pattern of initial stops and medial continuants (e.g. [gußa]) results in improved word segmentation compared to the inverse “anti-lenition” pattern of initial continuants and medial stops (e.g. [?uba]). The study also tests the effect of obstruent voicing, another common lenition pattern, but finds no significant differences in segmentation performance. There are several points of broader interest in these studies. Most of the phonetic factors influencing word segmentation in past studies have been language-specific and/or prosodic in nature: stress, intonation, final lengthening, etc. Spirantization, while often prosodically conditioned, is different from all of these patterns in that it concerns a segmental alternation. Moreover, the effects reported here are for speakers of a language, American English, that only sporadically displays spirantization, and not in the phonological contexts used in the experiment. This suggests that the results may reflect more general properties of speech perception and word boundary detection, rather than a perceptual processing strategy transferred directly from English. As such, the studies offer partial support for theories of lenition rooted in notions of perceptual-acoustic continuity and disruption.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Katz, Jonahjok146@pitt.edujok146
Fricke, Melindamelinda.fricke@pitt.edumelinda.fricke
Date: 23 March 2018
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
Volume: 3
Number: 1
Publisher: Ubiquity Press
Page Range: p. 38
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.5334/gjgl.443
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: lenition, word segmentation, spirantization, statistical learning, phonetics, phonology
ISSN: 2397-1835
Official URL:
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2021 15:01
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2021 15:01


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