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Psychophysiology. 2011 Sep;48(9):1208-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2011.01200.x. Epub 2011 Apr 7.

Phonotactic constraint violations in German grammar are detected automatically in auditory speech processing: a human event-related potentials study.

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1
Institute of Psychology, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany Centre for General Linguistics (ZAS), Berlin, Germany. j.steinberg@uni-leipzig.de

Abstract

In this human ERP study, effects of language-specific phonotactic restrictions on automatic auditory speech processing were investigated by means of the dorsal fricative assimilation (DFA) that is obligatory in German grammar. Using a multiple passive oddball paradigm, we studied the deviance-related processing of phonotactically ill-formed strings violating DFA. Eight VC-syllables were created by exhaustively combining the vowels [Y,..,...,...] and the dorsal fricatives [Ç X], resulting in four well-formed and four ill-formed stimuli that were contrasted in oddball blocks with changing probabilities of occurrence. Only the ill-formed deviants elicited a negative ERP deflection maximal at about 100 msec after the onset of the fricative. This negativity is considered to reflect a phonotactic evaluation process requiring the activation of implicit phonotactic knowledge from long-term memory and resulting in the automatic detection of a DFA violation.

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