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January 2022

Phonological variation and inference in lexical access

Author(s): Marslenwilson, W. D.

Journal/Book: J Exp Psychol-Hum Percep Perf. 1996; 22: 750 First St NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Amer Psychological Assoc. 144-158.

Abstract: Recent experiments have indicated that lexical access in speech is highly intolerant of mismatch. An isolated sequence such as [wikib] strongly disrupts access to the underlying lexical entry (wicked). This observation seems inconsistent with the systematic variability found in the phonetic form of words. Two cross-modal priming experiments tested the hypothesis that phonologically regular variation is perceptually acceptable. Participants heard tokens like [wihib] embedded in contexts that either licensed the change as a result of a regular assimilation process (e.g., [wihib praenk]) or rendered the change phonologically unviable (e.g., [wihib geim]). The tokens with contextually unviable deviations did not effectively access lexical representations. In contrast, the same tokens in viable phonological context primed as strongly as unchanged controls. These results suggest that mapping speech onto lexical representations involves on-line phonological inference.

Note: Article MG Gaskell, Univ London Birkbeck Coll, Dept Psychol, Ctr Speech & Language, London WC1E 7HX, England


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