Skip to main content

Phoneme-monitoring reaction time as a function of preceding intonation contour


An acoustically invariant one-word segment occurred in two versions of one syntactic context. In one version, the preceding intonation contour indicated that a stress would fall at the point where this word occurred. In the other version, the preceding contour predicted reduced stress at that point. Reaction time to the initial phoneme of the word was faster in the former case, despite the fact that no acoustic correlates of stress were present. It is concluded that a part of the sentence comprehension process is the prediction of upcoming sentence accents.


  • Bolinger, D. L. Contrastive accent and contrastive stress.Language, 1961,37, 83–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bond, Z. S. Perceptual errors in ordinary speech.Zeitschrift fur Phonetik, 1973.26, 691–694.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, R., &McNeill, D. The “tip of the tongue” phenomenonJournal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 1966,5, 325–337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, H. H. The language-as-fixed-effect fallacy: A critique of language statistics in psychological research.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 1973,12, 335–359.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cutler, A., & Foss, D. J. On the role of sentence stress in sentence processing.Language & Speech, in press.

  • Fay, D., &Cutler, A. You have a dictionary in your head, not a thesaurus.Texas Linguistic Forum, 1975,1, 27–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foss.D. J. Decision processes during sentence comprehension: Effects of lexical item difficulty and position upon decision times.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 1969,8, 457–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Foss, D. J. Some effects of ambiguity upon sentence comprehension.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. 1970.9. 699–706.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Garnes. S., & Bond, Z. S. Slips of the ear: Errors in perception of casual speech.Papers from the Eleventh Regional Meeting, Chicago Ltnguisttc Soiety, 1975.

  • Klatt. D. The duration of [s] in English words.Journal of Speech & Heanng Research. 1974. 17. 51–63.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klatt, D. Voice onset time, frication, and aspiration in word-initial consonant clusters.Journal of Speech & Hearing Research, 1975.18. 686–706.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lehiste, I.Suprasegmentals. Cambridge. Mass: M.I.T. Press, 1970.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lehiste, P. Some effects of semantic and grammatical context on the production and perception of speech.Language and Speech, 1963,6, 172–187.

    Google Scholar 

  • Martin, J. G. Rhythmic (hierarchical) versus serial structure in speech and other behavior.Psychological Review. 1972.79, 487–509.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Meltzer.R. H., Martin, J. G., Mills.C. B., Imhoff, D. L., &Zohar, D. Reaction time to temporally-displaced phoneme targets in continuous speech.Journal of Experiraental Psychology, Human Perceptton and Performance, 1976:2, 277–290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shields, J. L., McHugh, A., &Martin, J. G. Reaction time to phoneme targets as a function of rhythmic cues in continuous speech.Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1974,102, 250–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Winer, B. J.Statistical Principles in Experimental Design. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1971.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

This study formed part of a dissertation presented to the Graduate School of the University of Texas at Austin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cutler, A. Phoneme-monitoring reaction time as a function of preceding intonation contour. Perception & Psychophysics 20, 55–60 (1976).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Mental Lexicon
  • Nonsense Word
  • Reaction Time Difference
  • Stressed Syllable
  • Experimental Sentence