Memory & Cognition

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 746–755 | Cite as

Constraints of vowels and consonants on lexical selection: Cross-linguistic comparisons

  • Anne Cutler
  • Nuria Sebastián-Gallés
  • Olga Soler-Vilageliu
  • Brit Van Ooijen


Languages differ in the constitution of their phonemic repertoire and in the relative distinctiveness of phonemes within the repertoire. In the present study, we asked whether such differences constrain spoken-word recognition, via two word reconstruction experiments, in which listeners turned nonwords into real words by changing single sounds. The experiments were carried out in Dutch (which has a relatively balanced vowel—consonant ratio and many similar vowels) and in Spanish (which has many more consonants than vowels and high distinctiveness among the vowels). Both Dutch and Spanish listeners responded significantly faster and more accurately when required to change vowels as opposed to consonants; when allowed to change any phoneme, they more often altered vowels than consonants. Vowel information thus appears to constrain lexical selection less tightly (allow more potential candidates) than does consonant information, independent of language-specific phoneme repertoire and of relative distinctiveness of vowels.


Real Word Lexical Selection English Listener Matched Subset Vowel Information 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic SOciety, Inc 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Cutler
    • 1
  • Nuria Sebastián-Gallés
    • 2
  • Olga Soler-Vilageliu
    • 3
  • Brit Van Ooijen
    • 4
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for PsycholinguisticsNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Universitat Autonoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et PsycholinguistiqueCNRSParisFrance

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