Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 253–265 | Cite as

The perception of primary and secondary stress in English

  • Sven L. MattysEmail author


Most models of word recognition concerned with prosody are based on a distinction between strong syllables (containing a full vowel) and weak syllables (containing a schwa). In these models, the possibility that listeners take advantage of finer grained prosodie distinctions, such as primary versus secondary stress, is usually rejected on the grounds that these two categories are not discriminable from each other without lexical information or normalization of the speaker’s voice. In the present experiment, subjects were presented with word fragments that differed only by their degree of stress— namely, primary or secondary stress (e.g., /prasi/ vs. /prasi/). The task was to guess the origin of the fragment (e.g., “prosecutor” vs. “prosecution”). The results showed that guessing performance significantly exceeds the chance level, which indicates that making fine stress distinctions is possible without lexical information and with minimal speech normalization. This finding is discussed in the framework of prosody-based word recognition theories.


Word Recognition Speech Perception Lexical Access Acoustical Society ofAmerica Word Boundary 
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

  1. 1.State University of New YorkStony Brook

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