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      Effects of phonotactic predictability on sensitivity to phonetic detail

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          Japanese speakers systematically devoice or delete high vowels [i, u] between two voiceless consonants. Japanese listeners also report perceiving the same high vowels between consonant clusters even in the absence of a vocalic segment. Although perceptual vowel epenthesis has been described primarily as a phonotactic repair strategy, where a phonetically minimal vowel is epenthesized by default, few studies have investigated how the predictability of a vowel in a given context affects the choice of epenthetic vowel. The present study uses a forced-choice labeling task to test how sensitive Japanese listeners are to coarticulatory cues of high vowels [i, u] and non-high vowel [a] in devoicing and non-devoicing contexts. Devoicing contexts were further divided into high-predictability contexts, where the phonotactic distribution strongly favors one of the high vowels, and low-predictability contexts, where both high vowels are allowed, to specifically test for the effects of predictability. Results reveal a strong tendency towards [u] epenthesis as previous studies have found, but the results also reveal a sensitivity to coarticulatory cues that override the default [u] epenthesis, particularly in low-predictability contexts. Previous studies have shown that predictability affects phonetic implementation during production, and this study provides evidence predictability has similar effects during perception.

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          Most cited references 20

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          Probabilistic Phonotactics and Neighborhood Activation in Spoken Word Recognition

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            Language-specific phoneme representations revealed by electric and magnetic brain responses.

            There is considerable debate about whether the early processing of sounds depends on whether they form part of speech. Proponents of such speech specificity postulate the existence of language-dependent memory traces, which are activated in the processing of speech but not when equally complex, acoustic non-speech stimuli are processed. Here we report the existence of these traces in the human brain. We presented to Finnish subjects the Finnish phoneme prototype /e/ as the frequent stimulus, and other Finnish phoneme prototypes or a non-prototype (the Estonian prototype /õ/) as the infrequent stimulus. We found that the brain's automatic change-detection response, reflected electrically as the mismatch negativity (MMN), was enhanced when the infrequent, deviant stimulus was a prototype (the Finnish /ö/) relative to when it was a non-prototype (the Estonian /õ/). These phonemic traces, revealed by MMN, are language-specific, as /õ/ caused enhancement of MMN in Estonians. Whole-head magnetic recordings located the source of this native-language, phoneme-related response enhancement, and thus the language-specific memory traces, in the auditory cortex of the left hemisphere.
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              Phonological grammar shapes the auditory cortex: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study.

              Languages differ depending on the set of basic sounds they use (the inventory of consonants and vowels) and on the way in which these sounds can be combined to make up words and phrases (phonological grammar). Previous research has shown that our inventory of consonants and vowels affects the way in which our brains decode foreign sounds (Goto, 1971; Näätänen et al., 1997; Kuhl, 2000). Here, we show that phonological grammar has an equally potent effect. We build on previous research, which shows that stimuli that are phonologically ungrammatical are assimilated to the closest grammatical form in the language (Dupoux et al., 1999). In a cross-linguistic design using French and Japanese participants and a fast event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm, we show that phonological grammar involves the left superior temporal and the left anterior supramarginal gyri, two regions previously associated with the processing of human vocal sounds.

                Author and article information

                Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology
                Ubiquity Press
                23 April 2019
                : 10
                : 1
                [1 ]Collaborative Research Centre 1102, Saarland University, Saarbrücken, DE
                Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See

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