Constraints on definite article alternation in speech production: To “thee” or not to “thee”?
A recent study showed that the pronunciation of the definite article in English (as either a reduced “thuh” or an unreduced “thee”) depends on a number of different factors, including the pronunciation, spelling, and stress assignment of the following word (Raymond, Fisher, & Healy, 2002). However, it is not clear from previous research whether these factors influenced performance implicitly in normal speech production or whether explicit knowledge of the object of the experiment was relied on. In Experiment 1, we examined implicit performance on pronunciation of the definite article and found more systematic behavior than had previously been observed but, again, an influence of the pronunciation, spelling, and stress assignment of the following word. In Experiment 2, we tested the influence of the following word on definite article production during language development for two groups of children 8 and 10 years of age. This experiment showed increasing use of the unreduced form during development and a further influence of orthography. We interpret these results in terms of an interaction between perception and production in which the production system makes use of generalizations on the basis of both phonological and orthographic representations generated in perception.