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Transitional probabilities and positional frequency phonotactics in a hierarchical model of speech segmentation

The present study explores the influence of a new metrics of phonotactics on adultsí use of transitional probabilities to segment artificial languages. We exposed French native adults to continuous streams of nonsense trisyllabic words. High frequency words had either high- or low-congruence with French phonotactics, in the sense that their syllables had either high or low positional frequency in French trisyllabic words. At test, participants heard low-frequency words and part-words, which differed in their transitional probabilities (high for words, low for part-words) but were matched for frequency and phonotactic congruency. Participantsí preference for words over part-words was only found in the high-congruence languages. These results establish that subtle phonotactic manipulations can influence adultsí use of transitional probabilities to segment speech and unambiguously demonstrate that this prior knowledge interferes directly with segmentation processes in addition to affecting subsequent lexical decisions. Implications for a hierarchical theory of segmentation cues are discussed.



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