Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 571–589 | Cite as

Not just a function of function words: Distal speech rate influences perception of prosodically weak syllables

  • Melissa M. Baese-Berk
  • Laura C. DilleyEmail author
  • Molly J. Henry
  • Louis Vinke
  • Elina Banzina


Listeners resolve ambiguities in speech perception using multiple sources, including non-local or distal speech rate (i.e., the speech rate of material surrounding a particular region). The ability to resolve ambiguities is particularly important for the perception of casual, everyday productions, which are often produced using phonetically reduced forms. Here, we examine whether the distal speech rate effect is specific to a lexical class of words and/or to particular lexical or phonological contexts. In Experiment 1, we examined whether distal speech rate influenced perception of phonologically similar content words differing in number of syllables (e.g., form/forum). In Experiment 2, we used both transcription and word-monitoring tasks to examine whether distal speech rate influenced perception of a reduced vowel, causing lexical reorganization (e.g., cease, see us). Distal speech rate influenced perception of lexical content in both experiments. This demonstrates that distal rate influences perception of a lexical class other than function words and affects perception in a variety of phonological and lexical contexts. These results support a view that distal speech rate is a pervasive source of information with far-reaching consequences for perception of lexical content and word segmentation.


Speech perception Spoken word recognition Word perception 



This work was partially supported by an NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award and NSF grant BCS 1431063 to Laura C. Dilley and by a University of Oregon Faculty Research Award to Melissa M. Baese-Berk.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa M. Baese-Berk
    • 1
  • Laura C. Dilley
    • 2
    Email author
  • Molly J. Henry
    • 3
  • Louis Vinke
    • 4
  • Elina Banzina
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Linguistics1290 University of OregonEugeneUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communicative Sciences and DisordersMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, Brain and Mind InstituteUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  4. 4.Center for Systems NeuroscienceBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of LinguisticsStockholm School of Economics in RigaRigaLatvia

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