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Discourse context and the recognition of reduced and canonical spoken words



In two eye-tracking experiments we examined whether wider discourse information helps the recognition of reduced pronunciations (e.g., “puter”) more than the recognition of canonical pronunciations of spoken words (e.g., “computer”). Dutch participants listened to sentences from a casual speech corpus containing canonical and reduced target words. Target word recognition was assessed by measuring eye fixation proportions to four printed words on a visual display: the target, a “reduced form” competitor, a “canonical form” competitor, and an unrelated distractor. Target sentences were presented in isolation or with a wider discourse context. Experiment 1 revealed that target recognition was facilitated by wider discourse information. It is important that the recognition of reduced forms improved significantly when preceded by strongly rather than by weakly supportive discourse contexts. This was not the case for canonical forms: listeners’ target word recognition was not dependent on the degree of supportive context. Experiment 2 showed that the differential context effects in Experiment 1 were not due to an additional amount of speaker information. Thus, these data suggest that in natural settings a strongly supportive discourse context is more important for the recognition of reduced forms than the recognition of canonical forms.


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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Susanne Brouwer, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, P.O. Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


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Discourse context and the recognition of reduced and canonical spoken words



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