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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of segmental and suprasegmental cues in lexical access Macdonald, Suzanne Lynne


Research in the area of speech perception has shown that prosodic, or suprasegmental, information contributes to the recognition of spoken words. However, the significance of this contribution in English has been debated. Some researchers have argued that suprasegmental cues are not exploited much in English because suprasegmental cues co-vary with segmental cues and, therefore, information at the suprasegmental level is redundant. In this study, it is argued that segmental and suprasegmental cues are only redundant in ideal listening situations. It is hypothesized that suprasegmental cues will make a significant contribution to word recognition under degraded listening conditions. Sixteen normal hearing young adults listened to 100 common nouns presented in a gating paradigm. The 100 words were presented in four conditions: intact segmental and suprasegmental cues, degraded segmental cues, degraded suprasegmental cues, and degraded segmental and suprasegmental cues. Participants were asked to identify the word being presented. Participants' responses were scored according to the isolation point and the accuracy of word identification. Results for both measures showed that participants were able to identify the word sooner and more accurately when both segmental and suprasegmental cues were intact than when either cue was degraded; furthermore, when either cue was intact word recognition was faster and more accurate than when both cues were degraded. These results supported the hypothesis that suprasegmental cues can contribute significantly to spoken word recognition in English.

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