Skip to main content Accessibility help

Underspecification and asymmetries in voicing perception*

  • So-One K. Hwang (a1), Philip J. Monahan (a2) and William J. Idsardi (a1)


The purpose of our study is to show that phonological knowledge is an important basis for making predictions during speech perception. Taking the phonological constraint in English that coda obstruent clusters agree in their value for voicing, we conducted two experiments using vowel–stop–fricative sequences, where the task was to identify the fricative. Stimuli included sequences that were either congruent or incongruent. Consistent with models of featural underspecification for voiceless obstruents, our results indicate that only voiced stops induced predictions for an upcoming voiced fricative, eliciting processing difficulty when such predictions were not met. In contrast, voiceless stops appear to induce no equivalent predictions. These results demonstrate the important role of abstract phonological knowledge in online processing, and the asymmetries in our findings also suggest that only specified features are the basis for generating perceptual predictions about the upcoming speech signal.



Hide All
Archangeli, Diana (1988). Aspects of underspecification theory. Phonology 5. 183207.
Avery, Peter (1996). The representation of voicing contrasts. PhD dissertation, University of Toronto.
Avery, Peter & Idsardi, William J. (2001). Laryngeal dimensions, completion and enhancement. In Hall (2001). 4170.
Avery, Peter & Rice, Keren (1989). Segment structure and coronal underspecification. Phonology 6. 179200.
Baayen, R. H. (2008). Analyzing linguistic data: a practical introduction to statistics using R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Berent, Iris, Lennertz, Tracy, Jun, Jongho, Moreno, Miguel A. & Smolensky, Paul (2008). Language universals in human brains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105. 53215325.
Boersma, Paul & Weenink, David (2008). Praat: doing phonetics by computer (version 5.0.08).
Chomsky, Noam & Halle, Morris (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.
Clements, G. N. (1988). Toward a substantive theory of feature specification. NELS 18. 7993.
Crawley, Michael J. (2007). The R book. Chichester: Wiley.
Dresher, B. Elan, Piggott, Glyne & Rice, Keren (1995). Contrast in phonology: overview. Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics 13. iiixvii.
Eulitz, Carsten & Lahiri, Aditi (2004). Neurobiological evidence for abstract phonological representations in the mental lexicon during speech recognition. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 16. 577583.
Flagg, Elissa J., Oram Cardy, Janis E. & Roberts, Timothy P. L. (2006). MEG detects neural consequences of anomalous nasalization in vowel–consonant pairs. Neuroscience Letters 397. 263268.
Fowler, Carol A. & Brown, Julie M. (2000). Perceptual parsing of acoustic consequences of velum lowering from information for vowels. Perception and Psychophysics 62. 2132.
Friedrich, Claudia K., Eulitz, Carsten & Lahiri, Aditi (2006). Not every pseudoword disrupts word recognition: an ERP study. Behavioral and Brain Functions 2:36.
Greenberg, Joseph H. (1978). Some generalisations concerning initial and final consonant clusters. In Greenberg, Joseph H. (ed.) Universals of human languages. Vol. 2: Phonology. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 243279.
Hall, T. Alan (ed.) (2001). Distinctive feature theory. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Halle, Morris (2002). From memory to speech and back: papers on phonetics and phonology 1954–2002. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Halle, Morris & Stevens, Kenneth N. (1962). Speech recognition: a model and a program for research. IRE Transactions on Information Theory 8. 155159.
Harms, Robert T. (1978). Some nonrules of English. In Jazayery, Mohammad Ali, Polomé, Edgar C. & Winter, Werner (eds.) Linguistic and literary studies in honor of Archibald A. Hill. Vol. 2: Descriptive linguistics. The Hague: Mouton. 3951.
Hwang, So-One K., Monahan, Philip J. & Idsardi, William J. (2009). Asymmetric phonological predictions in speech perception: MEG evidence. Paper presented at the 16th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, San Francisco.
Keating, Patricia A. (1988). Underspecification in phonetics. Phonology 5. 275292.
Kreitman, Rina (2007). The phonetics and phonology of onset clusters: the case of Modern Hebrew. PhD dissertation, Cornell University.
Lahiri, Aditi & Marslen-Wilson, William (1991). The mental representation of lexical form: a phonological approach to the recognition lexicon. Cognition 38. 245294.
Lahiri, Aditi & Reetz, Henning (2002). Underspecified recognition. In Gussenhoven, Carlos & Warner, Natasha (eds.) Laboratory Phonology 7. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 637675.
Lahiri, Aditi & Reetz, Henning (2010). Distinctive features: phonological underspecification in representation and processing. JPh 38. 4459.
Liberman, A. M., Cooper, F. S., Shankweiler, D. P. & Studdert-Kennedy, M. (1967). Perception of the speech code. Psychological Review 74. 431461.
Lombardi, Linda (1991). Laryngeal features and laryngeal neutralization. PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Lombardi, Linda (1995). Dahl's law and privative [voice]. LI 26. 365372.
Lombardi, Linda (1999). Positional faithfulness and voicing assimilation in Optimality Theory. NLLT 17. 267302.
Massaro, Dominic W. & Cohen, Michael M. (1983). Phonological context in speech perception. Perception and Psychophysics 34. 338348.
Mester, Armin & Itô, Junko (1989). Feature predictability and underspecification: palatal prosody in Japanese mimetics. Lg 65. 258293.
Obleser, Jonas, Lahiri, Aditi & Eulitz, Carsten (2004). Magnetic brain response mirrors extraction of phonological features from spoken vowels. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 16. 3139.
Ohala, John J. (1983). The origin of sound patterns in vocal tract constraints. In MacNeilage, Peter F. (ed.) The production of speech. New York: Springer. 189216.
Pinheiro, Jose, Bates, Douglas, DebRoy, Saikat, Sarkar, Deepayan & the R Core Team. (2009). nlme: Linear and Nonlinear Mixed Effects Models. R package version 3.1-93.
Poeppel, David, Idsardi, William J. & van Wassenhove, Virginie (2008). Speech perception at the interface of neurobiology and linguistics. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 363. 10711086.
R Development Core Team (2005). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Available at
Rooy, Bertus van & Wissing, Daan (2001). Distinctive [voice] implies regressive voicing assimilation. In Hall (2001). 295334.
Smith, Caroline L. (1997). The devoicing of /z/ in American English: effects of local and prosodic context. JPh 25. 471500.
Steriade, Donca (1987). Redundant values. CLS 23:2. 339362.
Steriade, Donca (1995). Underspecification and markedness. In Goldsmith, John A. (ed.) The handbook of phonological theory. Cambridge, Mass. & Oxford: Blackwell. 114174.
Stevens, Kenneth N. & Halle, Morris (1967). Remarks on analysis by synthesis and distinctive features. In Wathen-Dunn, Weiant (ed.) Models for the perception of speech and visual form. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 88–102.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Underspecification and asymmetries in voicing perception*

  • So-One K. Hwang (a1), Philip J. Monahan (a2) and William J. Idsardi (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.