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J Mem Lang. 2009 Jan;60(1):65-91.

Within-category VOT affects recovery from "lexical" garden paths: Evidence against phoneme-level inhibition.

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Department of Psychology, University of Iowa.


Spoken word recognition shows gradient sensitivity to within-category voice onset time (VOT), as predicted by several current models of spoken word recognition, including TRACE (McClelland & Elman, Cognitive Psychology, 1986). It remains unclear, however, whether this sensitivity is short-lived or whether it persists over multiple syllables. VOT continua were synthesized for pairs of words like barricade and parakeet, which differ in the voicing of their initial phoneme, but otherwise overlap for at least four phonemes, creating an opportunity for "lexical garden-paths" when listeners encounter the phonemic information consistent with only one member of the pair. Simulations established that phoneme-level inhibition in TRACE eliminates sensitivity to VOT too rapidly to influence recovery. However, in two Visual World experiments, look-contingent and response-contingent analyses demonstrated effects of word initial VOT on lexical garden-path recovery. These results are inconsistent with inhibition at the phoneme level and support models of spoken word recognition in which sub-phonetic detail is preserved throughout the processing system.

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