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The processing of German word stress: evidence for the prosodic hierarchy*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 June 2008

Ulrike Domahs
University of Marburg
Richard Wiese
University of Marburg
Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
Matthias Schlesewsky
University of Marburg


The present paper explores whether the metrical foot is necessary for the description of prosodic systems. To this end, we present empirical findings on the perception of German word stress using event-related brain potentials as the dependent measure. A manipulation of the main stress position within three-syllable words revealed differential brain responses, which (a) correlated with the reorganisation of syllables into feet in stress violations, and (b) differed in strength depending on syllable weight. The experiments therefore provide evidence that the processing of word stress not only involves lexical information about stress positions, but also (quantity-sensitive) information about metrical structures, in particular feet and syllables.

Copyright © 2008 Cambridge University Press

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