ERIC Number: EJ1168376
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018-Feb
Abstractor: As Provided
The Basis of the Syllable Hierarchy: Articulatory Pressures or Universal Phonological Constraints?
Zhao, Xu; Berent, Iris
Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, v47 n1 p29-64 Feb 2018
Across languages, certain syllable types are systematically preferred to others (e.g., "blif" ? "bnif" ? "bdif" ? "lbif" where ? indicates a preference). Previous research has shown that these preferences are active in the brains of individual speakers, they are evident even when none of these syllable types exists in participants' language, and even when the stimuli are presented in print. These results suggest that the syllable hierarchy cannot be reduced to either lexical or auditory/phonetic pressures. Here, we examine whether the syllable hierarchy is due to articulatory pressures. According to the "motor embodiment" view, the perception of a linguistic stimulus requires simulating its production; dispreferred syllables (e.g., "lbif") are universally disliked because their production is harder to simulate. To address this possibility, we assessed syllable preferences while articulation was mechanically suppressed. Our four experiments each found significant effects of suppression. Remarkably, people remained sensitive to the syllable hierarchy regardless of suppression. Specifically, results with auditory materials (Experiments 1-2) showed strong effects of syllable structure irrespective of suppression. Moreover, syllable structure uniquely accounted for listeners' behavior even when controlling for several phonetic characteristics of our auditory materials. Results with printed stimuli (Experiments 3-4) were more complex, as participants in these experiments relied on both phonological and graphemic information. Nonetheless, readers were sensitive to most of the syllable hierarchy (e.g., "blif" ? "bnif" ? "bdif"), and these preferences emerged when articulation was suppressed, and even when the statistical properties of our materials were controlled via a regression analysis. Together, these findings indicate that speakers possess broad grammatical preferences that are irreducible to either sensory or motor factors.
Descriptors: Phonology, Syllables, Auditory Stimuli, Native Language, Phonetics, Articulation (Speech), Preferences, Graphemes, Reading Processes, Grammar, Regression (Statistics), Motor Reactions, Sensory Integration, Psycholinguistics
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
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