Cross-linguistic differences in the use of durational cues for the segmentation of a novel language
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Ordin, M., Polyanskaya, L., Laka, I., & Nespor, M. (2017). Cross-linguistic differences in the use of durational cues for the segmentation of a novel language. Memory & Cognition, 45(5), 863-876. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13421-017-0700-9
It is widely accepted that duration can be exploited as phonological phrase final lengthening in the segmentation of a novel language, i.e., in extracting discrete constituents from continuous speech. The use of final lengthening for segmentation and its facilitatory effect has been claimed to be universal. However, lengthening in the world languages can also mark lexically stressed syllables. Stress-induced lengthening can potentially be in conflict with right edge phonological phrase boundary lengthening. Thus the processing of durational cues in segmentation can be dependent on the listener's linguistic background, e.g., on the specific correlates and unmarked location of lexical stress in the native language of the listener. We tested this prediction and found that segmentation by both German and Basque speakers is facilitated when lengthening is aligned with the word final syllable and is not affected by lengthening on either the penultimate or the antepenultimate syllables. Lengthening ofthe word final syllable, however, does not help Italian and Spanish speakers to segment continuous speech, and lengthening of the antepenultimate syllable impedes their performance. We have also found a facilitatory effect of penultimate lengthening on segmentation by Italians. These results confirm our hypothesis that processing of lengthening cues is not universal, and interpretation of lengthening as a phonological phrase final boundary marker in a novel language of exposure can be overridden by the phonology of lexical stress in the native language of the listener.