, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 291–323 | Cite as

Probabilistic reduction and probabilistic enhancement

Contextual and paradigmatic effects on morpheme pronunciation
  • Clara CohenEmail author


Research on probabilistic pronunciation variation has generally focused on contextual probability, or the probability of using a linguistic unit (segment, syllable, word, etc.) in the context of a particular utterance. Overwhelmingly, this research has found that higher contextual probability leads to phonetic reduction. Less attention, however, has been given to paradigmatic probability, or the probability of using a particular linguistic form from a paradigm of related forms. The research that has addressed this type of probability has found inconsistent results: Sometimes higher paradigmatic probability leads to phonetic enhancement, and sometimes to phonetic reduction. In this paper I present the results of an experiment exploring the effects of both types of probability simultaneously on the pronunciation of agreement suffixes on English verbs. I find that (i) singular verb suffixes and stems are phonetically reduced when singular agreement is contextually probable; (ii) the nature of the reduction is modulated by verb frequency, consistent with dual-route models of lexical retrieval; and (iii) suffixes are phonetically enhanced when they are paradigmatically probable. I conclude by discussing how the patterns observed in this study shed light on the previous contradictory findings regarding the effects of paradigmatic probability on pronunciation.


Subject-verb agreement Inflectional paradigms Pronunciation variation Probability Speech production Experimental linguistics 



I am very grateful to Susanne Gahl, Victor Kuperman, Haraald Baayen, and the audience members at the 2013 Morphology and its Interfaces conference for helpful discussion and comments on this research.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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