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Cumulative context effects and variant lexical representations: Word use and English final t/d deletion

  • William D. Raymond (a1), Esther L. Brown (a1) and Alice F. Healy (a1)

Word production variability is widespread in speech, and rates of variant production correlate with many factors. Recent research suggests mental representation of both canonical word forms and distinct reduced variants, and that production and processing are sensitive to variant frequency. What factors lead to frequency-weighted variant representations? An experiment manipulated following context and word repetition for final t/d words in read, narrative English speech. Modeling the experimentally generated data statistically showed higher final-segment deletion in tokens followed by consonant-initial words, but no evidence of increased deletion with repetition, regardless of context. Deletion rates were also higher the greater a word's cumulative exposure to consonant contexts (measured from distributional statistics), but there was no effect of word frequency. Token effects are interpreted in terms of articulation processes. The type-level context effect is interpreted within exemplar and usage-based models of language to suggest that experiences with word variants in contexts register as frequency-weighted representations.

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