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The Phonetics and Phonology of Geminate Consonants$
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Haruo Kubozono

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198754930

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198754930.001.0001

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Asymmetric processing of consonant duration in Swiss German

Asymmetric processing of consonant duration in Swiss German

(p.204) 9 Asymmetric processing of consonant duration in Swiss German
The Phonetics and Phonology of Geminate Consonants

Lara Ehrenhofer

Adam C. Roberts

Sandra Kotzor

Allison Wetterlin

Aditi Lahiri

Oxford University Press

In Swiss German, which encodes a phonological contrast in consonant length, consonant duration signals the segment’s geminate status and, in medial position, indicates the word’s syllable structure. The present work investigates the interaction between these aspects of durational processing using the N400, an electrophysiological component which offers a fine-grained measure of the success of lexical access. A cross-modal semantic priming ERP study tested to what extent words with medial consonants whose duration had been phonetically lengthened or shortened (leading to an incorrect syllable structure) trigger lexical access. Behavioural and ERP results revealed a processing asymmetry: lengthening a singleton does not negatively impact lexical access, but shortening a geminate does. This asymmetry supports an underspecification account of the geminate/singleton contrast, and may indicate a bias towards initially parsing acoustic input according to a CV template.

Keywords:   geminates, Swiss German, consonant duration, lexical access, processing, underspecification, syllable structure, priming, N400

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