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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2016 Jun 1;59(3):557-71. doi: 10.1044/2015_JSLHR-H-15-0062.

Repair or Violation Detection? Pre-Attentive Processing Strategies of Phonotactic Illegality Demonstrated on the Constraint of g-Deletion in German.



Effects of categorical phonotactic knowledge on pre-attentive speech processing were investigated by presenting illegal speech input that violated a phonotactic constraint in German called "g-deletion." The present study aimed to extend previous findings of automatic processing of phonotactic violations and to investigate the role of stimulus context in triggering either an automatic phonotactic repair or a detection of the violation.


The mismatch negativity event-related potential component was obtained in 2 identical cross-sectional experiments with speaker variation and 16 healthy adult participants each. Four pseudowords were used as stimuli, 3 of them phonotactically legal and 1 illegal. Stimuli were contrasted pairwise in passive oddball conditions and presented binaurally via headphones. Results were analyzed by means of mixed design analyses of variance.


Phonotactically illegal stimuli were found to be processed differently compared to legal ones. Results indicate evidence for both automatic repair and detection of the phonotactic violation depending on the linguistic context the illegal stimulus was embedded in.


These findings corroborate notions that categorical phonotactic knowledge is activated and applied even in the absence of attention. Thus, our findings contribute to the general understanding of sublexical phonological processing and may be of use for further developing speech recognition models.

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