Original Paper

Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 491-512

First online:

Lexical and Metrical Stress in Word Recognition: Lexical or Pre-lexical Influences?

  • Louisa M. SlowiaczekAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Bowdoin College Email author 
  • , Emily G. SoltanoAffiliated withWorcester State College
  • , Hilary L. BernsteinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Bowdoin College

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The influence of lexical stress and/or metrical stress on spoken word recognition was examined. Two experiments were designed to determine whether response times in lexical decision or shadowing tasks are influenced when primes and targets share lexical stress patterns (JUVenile–BIBlical [Syllables printed in capital letters indicate those syllables receiving primary lexical stress.]). The results did not support an effect of lexical stress on the organization of lexical memory. In Experiment 3 primes and targets whose first syllables shared lexical stress only (MUDdy–PASta), metrical stress only (alTHOUGH–PASta), both cues (LECtern–PASta), or neither cue (conTROL–PASta) revealed no priming effect. However, targets whose first syllables were strong were responded to faster than targets whose first syllables were weak. Experiment 4 manipulated the metrical stress patterns of bi-syllabic primes and targets. Targets with strong–weak metrical stress patterns were responded to more quickly than those with strong–strong or weak–strong patterns. Although the priming paradigm did not reveal an influence of lexical and metrical stress on the organization of lexical memory, the data do support an influence of strong syllables on the processing of auditorily presented words.


Lexical stress Metrical stress Spoken word processing