Phonological processes and the perception of phonotactically illegal consonant clusters

Abstract

The perception of consonant clusters that are phonotactically illegal word initially in English (e.g., /tl/, /sr/) was investigated to determine whether listeners’ phonological knowledge of the language influences speech processing. Experiment 1 examined whether the phonotactic context effect (Massaro & Cohen, 1983), a bias toward hearing illegal sequences (e.g., /tl/) as legal (e.g., /tr/), is more likely due to knowledge of the legal phoneme combinations in English or to a frequency effect. In Experiment 2, Experiment 1 was repeated with the clusters occurring word medially to assess whether phonotactic rules of syllabification modulate the phonotactic effect. Experiment 3 examined whether vowel epenthesis, another phonological process, might also affect listeners’ perception of illegal sequences as legal by biasing them to hear a vowel between the consonants of the cluster (e.g., /talee/). Results suggest that knowledge of the phonotactically permissible sequences in English can affect phoneme processing in multiple ways.

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Correspondence to Mark A. Pitt.

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This research was supported by Grant R29-DC01774 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

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Pitt, M.A. Phonological processes and the perception of phonotactically illegal consonant clusters. Perception & Psychophysics 60, 941–951 (1998). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03211930

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Keywords

  • Speech Perception
  • Consonant Cluster
  • Phoneme Identification
  • Phonological Knowledge
  • Syllable Onset