Why reduce? Phonological neighborhood density and phonetic reduction in spontaneous speech

Susanne Gahl, Yao Yao, Keith Johnson

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Frequent or contextually predictable words are often phonetically reduced, i.e. shortened and produced with articulatory undershoot. Explanations for phonetic reduction of predictable forms tend to take one of two approaches: Intelligibility-based accounts hold that talkers maximize intelligibility of words that might otherwise be difficult to recognize; production-based accounts hold that variation reflects the speed of lexical access and retrieval in the language production system. Here we examine phonetic variation as a function of phonological neighborhood density, capitalizing on the fact that words from dense phonological neighborhoods tend to be relatively difficult to recognize, yet easy to produce. We show that words with many phonological neighbors tend to be phonetically reduced (shortened in duration and produced with more centralized vowels) in connected speech, when other predictors of phonetic variation are brought under statistical control. We argue that our findings are consistent with the predictions of production-based accounts of pronunciation variation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-806
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Volume66
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012

Keywords

  • Audience design
  • Language production
  • Lexical access
  • Lexical neighborhood
  • Pronunciation variation
  • Spontaneous speech corpus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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