The status of word-final phonetic phenomena

Megan Rouch, Anya Lunden


The right edge of the word is a known domain for processes like phonological devoicing. This has been argued to be the effect of analogy from higher prosodic domains, rather than an in situ motivated change (Hock 1999, Hualde and Eager 2016). Phonetic word-level phenomena of final lengthening and final devoicing have been found to occur natively word-finally (Lunden 2006, 2017, Nakai et al. 2009) despite claims that they have no natural phonetic pressure originating in this position (Hock 1999). We present the results of artificial language learning studies that seek to answer the question of whether phonetic-level cues to the word-final position can aid in language parsing. If they do, it provides evidence that listeners can make use of word-level phonetic phenomena, which, together with studies that have found them to be present, speaks to their inherent presence at the word level. We find that adult listeners are better able to recognize the words they heard in a speech stream, and better able to reject words that they did not hear, when final lengthening was present at the right edge of the word. Final devoicing was not found to give the same boost to parsing.


phonological domain; artificial language learning; final devoicing; final lengthening

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