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Durational cues to word recognition in spoken French

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 November 2012

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Ellenor Shoemaker, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3, Laboratoire de Phonétique et Phonologie (CNRS/UMR 7018), 5, rue de l'Ecole de médecine, Paris 75006, France. E-mail:


In spoken French, the phonological processes of liaison and resyllabification can render word and syllable boundaries ambiguous (e.g., un air “an air”/un nerf “a nerve,” both [.nɛʁ]). Production data have demonstrated that speakers of French vary the duration of consonants that surface in liaison environments relative to consonants produced word initially. Further research has suggested that listeners exploit these durational differences in the processing of running speech, although no study to date has directly tested this hypothesis. The current study examines the exploitation of duration in word recognition processes by manipulating this single acoustic factor while holding all other factors in the signal constant. The pivotal consonants in potentially ambiguous French sequences (e.g., /n/ in un nerf) were instrumentally shortened and lengthened and presented to listeners in two behavioral tasks. The results suggest that listeners are sensitive to segmental duration and use this information to modulate the lexical interpretation of spoken French.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012 

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