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Place assimilation and phonetic grounding: a cross-linguistic perceptual study*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 November 2007

Alexei Kochetov
University of Toronto
Connie K. So
University of Western Sydney


This paper investigates predictions made by the ‘phonetic knowledge hypothesis’ (Jun 1995, 2004, Hayes & Steriade 2004) about the relation between perceptibility of stops and common patterns of major place assimilation. In two perceptual experiments, stimuli with Russian released and unreleased voiceless stops in clusters were presented for identification of 56 listeners, native speakers of Russian, Canadian English, Korean and Taiwanese Mandarin. Percentages of correct responses and reaction time data were used to determine scales of perceptual salience. Results reveal considerable perceptual differences between places of articulation, consistent across four language groups. Perceptual salience of place of articulation was strongly affected by presence or absence of stop releases. While the salience scale for released stops closely corresponded to cross-linguistic patterns of assimilation, the scale for unreleased stops did not. The results provide partial support for the hypothesis, while suggesting a less direct relation between scales of phonetic difficulty and phonological markedness.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2007

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