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Differential processing of consonants and vowels in the auditory modality: A cross-linguistic study

Following the proposal by Nespor, Peña, and Mehler (2003) that consonants are more important in constraining lexical access than vowels, New, Araújo, and Nazzi (2008) demonstrated in a visual priming experiment that primes sharing consonants (jalu-JOLI) facilitate lexical access while primes sharing vowels do not (vobi-JOLI). The present study explores if this asymmetry can be extended to the auditory modality and whether language input plays a critical role as developmental studies suggest. Our experiments tested French and English as target languages and showed that consonantal information facilitated lexical decision to a greater extent than vocalic information, suggesting that the consonant advantage is independent of the language’s distributional properties. However, vowels are also facilitatory, in specific cases, with iambic English CVCV or French CVCV words. This effect is related to the preservation of the rhyme between the prime and the target (here, the final vowel), suggesting that the rhyme, in addition to consonant information and consonant skeleton information



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