Coarticulation and the Structure of the Lexicon

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Using data from the Switchboard corpus of American English telephone conversations, Gahl also reported that HF English homophones e. Accordingly, in a reading aloud task, Munson and Solomon observed that vowels in LF words were produced with longer durations and closer to the periphery of the vowel space hence, with more extreme articulation than vowels in HF words. Initial-phoneme durations were also found to be longer for LF words in reading aloud Kawamoto et al. This finding challenges the assumption that articulation is initiated only after phonological encoding is complete Levelt et al.

Taken together, these results suggest that lexical frequency , a variable that has been traditionally known to affect high-level cognitive processes, also affects low-level articulatory processes. Words from dense neighborhoods i. In particular, in these studies, vowels in words from high-density neighborhoods were produced closer to the periphery of the vowel space hence, with extreme articulation , whereas vowels in words from sparse neighborhoods were produced closer to the center of the vowel space.

Accordingly, Baese-Berk and Goldrick observed that words with minimal pair onset neighbors e. Last, Scarborough found that vowels in LF words from high-density neighborhoods were more coarticulated than vowels in HF words from low-density neighborhoods.

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Although this finding seems to contradict previous findings, Scarborough took this result to indicate that speakers coarticulate the vowels more in words that are harder for listeners to recognize in order to facilitate lexical access Luce and Pisoni, Taken together, these findings suggest that similarly to lexical frequency, phonological neighborhood density influences articulation.

Words that are predictable in a sentence are produced with shorter durations and more reduced vowels e. Further, repeated words e. Finally, words in less probable syntactic constructions are produced with longer durations e. Taken together, these findings suggest that syntactic predictability influences articulatory detail.

Balota et al. Using the Stroop paradigm, Kello et al. The results from this study showed a Stroop interference effect, so that the incongruent condition yielded significantly slower color-naming latencies compared to the neutral condition. In addition, when participants had a deadline within which they had to respond, color naming durations were significantly longer in the incongruent condition relative to the neutral condition. These findings support the idea that semantic congruency , another variable that is thought to affect high-level cognitive processes, also influences articulation.

However, the empirical evidence in this research domain is not entirely consistent. Meyer , for example, observed that single words were produced faster when they occurred in a phonologically similar context, yet their durations were unaffected by the context in which they occurred.

Similarly, Schriefers and Teruel found that naming latencies of adjective-noun utterances e. Moreover, using three different speech production paradigms, a picture-word interference task with semantic and phonological relatedness between pictures and distractors, a picture-naming task in which pictures were blocked either by semantic category or by word-initial overlap, and a Stroop task, such as that used by Kello et al.

According to the literature in this domain, this is so because access to semantic information, which is required in picture naming but not necessarily in reading aloud, is time-consuming Theios and Amrhein, In addition, it has been suggested that the stimulus-response association is equivocal in picture naming i. These explanations imply that the response latency differences observed in the two tasks are due to differences in the processes that are involved in word-selection in the two tasks. However, verbal response latencies reflect not only the time that is required to select a word, but also the time to plan and initiate articulation.

As such, the response latency differences observed in the two tasks could be due to a delay in planning and initiating articulation in picture naming compared to word reading aloud.

If this hypothesis is true, strong evidence will be provided in favor of the idea that task-inherent cognitive processes e. RT was defined as the delay between stimulus presentation and the onset of the verbal response. Electromyographic EMG activity from several lip muscles was also recorded.

The stimulus-response SR interval was divided into a premotor interval from stimulus onset to EMG activity and a motor interval from EMG activity to verbal response. This finding is consistent with Damian's results falsifying the theory that high-level cognitive processes affect articulatory processes. In the present study, we re-examined this idea.

In particular, we investigated whether lexical frequency affects initial-phoneme durations in picture naming and reading aloud. Lexical frequency is known to affect the time taken to select a phonological code for production. However, if it also influences durational aspects of the verbal response, we can conclude that cognitive processing is taking place after the verbal response is initiated. Such a finding will imply that information from cognitive to articulatory levels of processing flows in a cascaded manner. In contrast, if lexical frequency does not have an effect on durational aspects of the verbal response, we can conclude that processing at high cognitive levels is completed before the verbal response is initiated, and so the nature of information flow between cognitive and articulatory levels of processing must be staged.

On the basis of previous results in the literature, we predicted that LF items would yield longer initial-phoneme durations than HF items. In addition, we examined effects of lexical frequency on response times.

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Based on previous findings, we predicted that LF items would yield slower response times than HF items. Furthermore, we hypothesized that lexical frequency effects on verbal responses should be more prominent in picture naming than in reading aloud. This is because semantic activation of the target stimulus is required in picture naming; hence, its associated lexical frequency will have a robust effect on verbal responses.

In contrast, reading aloud of a printed word can be performed, in principle, on the basis of sublexical information, and so lexical frequency effects on verbal responses are likely to be attenuated in this task. Accordingly, we predicted that both in the reaction time analyses and the analyses of initial-phoneme durations, the frequency effect would be bigger in size in picture naming than in reading aloud.

Last, we examined task effects on whole-word durations. Hennessey and Kirsner found that the same words were produced with longer durations in reading aloud compared to picture naming. They posited that reading aloud may be initiated on the basis of sublexical information e. Yet, this explanation is at odds with the idea that reading aloud begins when the computation of phonology is complete Rastle et al. The present study further allows us to test these opposing views.

A common assumption in one of the most prominent psycholinguistic models of speech production e. Similarly, the most prominent models of single word reading aloud e. Thus, the results from the present study are critical for the evaluation of extant theories of speech production and reading aloud. Thirty of them participated in the picture naming task and the other 30 participated in the reading aloud task. Participants were monolingual native speakers of Southern British English and reported no visual, reading, or language difficulties. In order to make the picture naming and reading aloud tasks as comparable as possible the same items were used in both tasks.

They were all regular words i. The 72 items comprised 36 pairs of words that differed in their relative frequency, but were matched on number of phonemes and shared the same onset and vowel e. Matching these pairs of words on their onset and vowel was important insofar as frequency effects on articulation were measured in terms of initial-phoneme durations, which are known to vary as a function of the identity of the following vowel or consonant Klatt, Age of acquisition AoA is known to have a robust effect on picture naming latencies that is independent of the frequency effect see Bates et al.

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AoA values were obtained from Kuperman et al. The paired words are provided as Supplementary Material. Table 1. Characteristics of the items used in the picture naming and reading aloud tasks. The 72 pictures consisted of black-and-white line drawings of common objects. The pictures varied slightly in width — pixels and height — pixels to avoid distorting the original shape of the depicted object; however, the longest side of each picture never exceeded pixels and all pictures appeared in the center of the screen.

In the picture naming task, each participant underwent a training phase and a test phase. The training phase consisted of two parts. During the first part, participants were told that the aim of this first training phase was to become familiar with the names of a set of pictures that they would be asked to name later. On each trial, participants saw a picture appearing on the computer screen and heard its corresponding name via headphones. The names of the pictures had been recorded by a female native speaker of Southern British English.

Participants studied each picture for as long as they needed, and controlled the time at which the next picture was presented with a button press. The 72 pictures were presented to each participant in a different random order. During the second part of the training phase, we assessed whether participants remembered the picture names they had just learnt. Pictures were presented visually again in a random order and participants were asked to provide their names.

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Independently of whether participants produced the picture name correctly or incorrectly, on-screen feedback was provided subsequent to their response i. Once the second part of the training phase was completed, participants proceeded to the test phase. In the reading aloud task, there was no training phase. However, 16 words that had similar characteristics as the experimental words served as practice trials.

A total of 72 experimental words were then presented to each participant in a different random order. Participants were tested individually in a quiet room, seated approximately 40 cm in front of a CRT monitor. Verbal responses were recorded by a head-worn microphone. In the picture naming task, participants were told that they would see the same pictures that they had previously been familiarized with and that their task was to name each picture as quickly and as accurately as possible, without hesitation.

The pictures appeared on a white background in the center of the screen and remained there for ms. In the reading aloud task, participants were told that they would be shown a series of words and that their task was to read aloud each word as quickly and as accurately as possible, without hesitation. The words were presented in lowercase letters point Courier New font and appeared in black on a white background in the center of the screen for ms.

Following 16 practice trials, the 72 words were presented to each participant in a different random order. Participants' reaction times RTs in both the picture naming and reading aloud tasks were hand-marked using CheckVocal Protopapas, Incorrect responses, mispronunciations, and hesitations 2. Initial-phoneme durations and whole-word durations were measured using Praat Boersma, Due to microphone clipping and mobile interference, 5. The picture naming and reading aloud data were initially combined in a single analysis. To control for temporal dependencies between successive trials, the RT of the previous trial was taken into account in the analyses, so trials whose previous trial corresponded to an error and participants' first trial in each task 2.

The analyses were performed using linear mixed effects models Baayen, ; Baayen et al. In our model, inverse RT was the dependent variable. The fixed effects included the interaction between frequency type HF vs. LF and task type picture naming vs. Intercepts for subjects and items were included as random effects.

The picture naming and reading aloud tasks were then analyzed separately. In the analysis of the picture naming data, the fixed effects included frequency type HF vs. Intercepts for subjects and items, and random slopes for the effect of frequency for subjects were included as random effects 3. In the analysis of the reading aloud data, frequency type HF vs. LF , AoA, the RT of the previous trial, and trial order were included as fixed effects, and intercepts for subjects and items were included as random effects.

Table 2. Mean reaction times RTs , initial-phoneme durations IP durations , whole-word durations WW durations , and Frequency effect in milliseconds in the picture naming and reading aloud tasks. The rater labeled the acoustic boundaries of the initial phoneme in each word via visual inspection of the waveform and spectrogram using the criteria established in the ANDOSL database Croot et al.

The analyses of the initial-phoneme durations were performed using the same version of R and the same R packages as those used in the analyses of the RT data. The Box-Cox procedure indicated that the logarithmic transformation was the best transformation for initial-phoneme durations to approach a normal distribution. Therefore, the logarithmic transformation of initial-phoneme duration was the dependent variable, while the fixed effects included the interaction between frequency type HF vs.

The results obtained from observations showed a frequency effect, with LF items yielding longer initial-phoneme durations than HF items. As in the RT analyses, the initial-phoneme durations in the picture naming and reading aloud tasks were subsequently analyzed separately. The mean initial-phoneme durations for HF and LF items in the picture naming and reading aloud tasks are shown in Table 2.

The same rater labeled the two acoustic boundaries that defined word duration. These were placed at the onset of acoustic energy, which was similarly denoted in all speech sounds by an increase in amplitude on the waveform, and at the offset of acoustic energy. When the last sound of the word was a stop, the second acoustic boundary that marked the end of the word was placed at the end point of the stop closure. Frequency effects on whole-word durations could not be examined given that the paired items in the HF and LF lists contained different codas.

Therefore, in this analysis, we examined task effects picture naming vs. The analysis was performed using the same version of R and the same R packages as those used in the analyses of the RT and initial-phoneme duration data.


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  • Lexical frequency effects on articulation: a comparison of picture naming and reading aloud.

The Box-Cox procedure indicated that the logarithmic transformation was the best transformation for the whole-word duration data. As such, the dependent variable in this analysis was the logarithmic transformation of whole-word duration, while task type picture naming vs. The mean whole-word durations for all items in the picture naming and reading aloud tasks are shown in Table 2.

Uttering a verbal response involves the combination of cognitive and articulatory processes; however, such processes have been traditionally investigated separately, perhaps due to the widely-held assumption that the relationship between cognitive and articulatory levels of processing is staged, so that articulation can only begin once a phonological code has been generated Levelt et al.

A number of studies have provided evidence that challenges this assumption. Such evidence comes from speech errors, which contain articulatory characteristics of unselected sounds; and from effects of lexical frequency, phonological neighborhood density, syntactic predictability, and semantic congruency on the acoustic realization of verbal responses. Yet the evidence in this domain is not entirely consistent.

In the present study, we investigated effects of lexical frequency on articulation using the same stimuli in a picture naming and a reading aloud task. We reasoned that if lexical frequency affects durational aspects of verbal responses e. Such an observation would support the view that information from cognitive to articulatory levels of processing flows in a cascaded rather than a staged manner.

In addition, we hypothesized that in a conceptually driven task such as picture naming, lexical frequency effects on articulation would be more prominent than in reading aloud. This is because semantic activation of the target stimulus is required in picture naming, and so its associated lexical variables e. However, reading aloud can be performed, in principle, on the basis of sublexical information, and so lexical variables associated with the printed word e.

Even though the analyses of RTs were not the focus of the present research, it is worth noting that the results were as expected. In particular, we observed a robust frequency effect, so that LF items were named slower than HF items. This was the case for both picture naming and reading aloud. Interestingly, the size of the frequency effect was significantly bigger in picture naming compared to reading aloud 55 vs.

This result is consistent with the hypothesis that in conceptually driven tasks, where there is necessarily semantic activation of the target item, lexical variables associated with the target e. We also observed that response latencies were overall slower in picture naming than in reading aloud, a finding that was first observed over a century ago Cattell, The analyses of initial-phoneme durations, which were the focus of the present research, were overall consistent with the findings from previous studies that investigated effects of lexical frequency on acoustic durations e.

In particular, LF items yielded longer initial-phoneme durations than HF items, yet the size of this effect was very small and missed significance. Separate analyses of the picture naming and reading aloud data revealed a significant frequency effect on initial-phoneme durations for picture naming but not for reading aloud. Even though this finding is consistent with our hypothesis, namely that lexical frequency effects on articulation should be more prominent in picture naming than in reading aloud, the small size of this effect 2 ms in combination with the absence of a significant interaction between frequency and task does not allow us to firmly conclude that lexical frequency trickles down to affect articulatory levels of processing in speech production.

Furthermore, we observed that both initial-phoneme and whole-word durations were significantly longer in reading aloud than in picture naming. This finding is consistent with the findings of Hennessey and Kirsner who reported that response durations of the same words were longer in reading aloud than in picture naming for LF items only.

To explain their findings, the authors postulated that reading aloud is initiated on the basis of partial information from the printed word. Because of this early start, the computation of phonology of the rest of the word needs be carried out during response execution, thus resulting in longer response durations in this task compared to picture naming. This account could explain our data. If response execution in reading aloud is stretched out to compensate for an early start, we may observe that in our reading aloud data, faster RTs are associated with longer initial-phoneme and whole-word durations.

To conclude, the present study investigated effects of lexical frequency on articulation using the same stimuli in a picture naming and a reading aloud task. In agreement with previous studies, we obtained longer initial-phoneme durations for LF items than for HF items. However, the observed frequency effect reached significance only in the picture naming task. Our data suggest that high levels of cognitive processing influence, to some extent, low levels of articulatory processing. Yet, given the small size of the effect, we are reluctant to draw firm conclusions about whether the nature of the relationship between cognitive and articulatory levels of processing in speech production is cascaded or staged.

The authors would like to thank Eva Liu for hand-marking participants' response latencies and labeling the acoustic boundaries of participants' response durations. This research was supported by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship to the first author. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. These values are expressed on a Zipf scale. Values 1—3 correspond to LF words and values 4—7 correspond to HF words. These values are expressed per million.

However, given that a training phase preceded the test phase, participants were already familiarized with the names of these two objects before carrying out the task. Thirty-two of our stimuli overlapped with the items used in the Taikh et al. If picture naming involves semantic activation of the target stimuli, picture naming RTs for these 32 items in our study should correlate with semantic decision times for the same pictures in the Taikh et al. However, reading aloud RTs for these 32 items in our study may not correlate with semantic decision times for the same words in the Taikh et al.

We thank Marc Brysbaert for pointing us to the Taikh et al. Aylett, M. The smooth signal redundancy hypothesis: a functional explanation for relationships between redundancy, prosodic prominence, and duration in spontaneous speech. Speech 47, 31— Language redundancy predicts syllabic duration and the spectral characteristics of vocalic syllable nuclei.

Baayen, R. Google Scholar. Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Baese-Berk, M. Mechanisms of interaction in speech production. Balota, D. Priming in pronunciation: beyond pattern recognition and onset latency. Bard, E. Controlling the intelligibility of referring expressions in dialogue.

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Nasal Coarticulation in Lexical Perception: The Role of Neighborhood-conditioned Variation

Word reading and picture naming in Italian. Bell, A. Predictability effects on durations of content and function words in conversational English. Boersma, P. Praat, a system for doing phonetics by computer. Glot Int. Brysbaert, M. Moving beyond Kucera and Francis: a critical evaluation of current word frequency norms and the introduction of a new and improved word frequency measure for American English.

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Figures, Tables, and Topics from this paper. Figures and Tables. Citations Publications citing this paper. References Publications referenced by this paper. Coarticulation and the structure of the lexicon Rebecca Scarborough. Factors of lexical competition in vowel articulation.

Word-specific phonetics Janet B. Perception of coarticulatory nasalization by speakers of English and Thai: evidence for partial compensation. Acoustic correlates of English and French nasalized vowels. Matthew Y. Philadelphia: Linguistic Data Consortium. Baayen , R.