Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 1941–1947 | Cite as

Paying the meter: Effect of metrical similarity on word lengthening

  • Brett R. MyersEmail author
  • Duane G. Watson
Brief Report


Language has a rhythmic structure, but little is known about the mechanisms that underlie how it is planned. Traditional models of language production assume that metrical and segmental planning occur independently and in parallel (Roelofs & Meyer Learning Memory and Cognition, 24(4), 922–939, 1998). We test this claim in two experiments. In Experiment 1, participants completed an event-description task in which a disyllabic target word shared segmental overlap with a prime that either had matching or nonmatching lexical stress. Participants lengthened words in trials with both segmental and metrical overlap, which could either be the result of metrical interference or having uttered a prime with similar segmental realizations. To adjudicate between these possibilities, Experiment 2 included segmentally distinct word pairs with either matching or nonmatching stress. Participants again showed lengthening in trials with both segmental and metrical overlap, but no lengthening from metrical overlap alone. These data suggest that the acoustic-phonetic similarity of the initial syllables of the prime and target creates competition that leads to word lengthening. These are consistent with production models in which segmental and metrical structures are tightly bound at the point of phonological encoding.


psycholinguistics motor planning/programming phonology speech production 



The authors would like to thank Sarah Bibyk, Andrés Buxó-Lugo, Cassandra Jacobs, and Reyna Gordon for theoretical and methodological contributions to this work, and Michael West, Joseph Barnette, Jordan Spencer, and Yiran Chen for assistance with data collection and analysis. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1557097. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work was additionally supported by the Vanderbilt Trans-Institutional Programs, the Program for Music, Mind, and Society at Vanderbilt, and the Vanderbilt University Department of Psychology and Human Development.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of OtolaryngologyVanderbilt University Medical CenterNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Human DevelopmentVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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