Evidence for perceptual hypercorrection in American r-dissimilation: A pilot study

Nancy Hall, Bianca Godinez, Megan Walsh, Irene Orellana, Coleen Villegas


We tested Ohala's (1993) theory that dissimilation results from perceptual hypercorrection for assimilation. We created nonce words by splicing syllables containing /r/ to continuations that either did or did not contain another /r/. When listeners were asked to type these nonce words, they were significantly more likely to omit the first /r/ if there was a later /r/. This is consistent with Ohala's claim that one rhotic can perceptually mask the presence of another rhotic. The patterns of r-dropping mimics the characteristics of real English r-dissimilation, in which speakers tend to drop the first /r/ from words like surprise. We argue that perceptual errors are a plausible cause of the actuation of r-dissimilation, although other articulatory or processing constraints may contribute to its persistence.


dissimilation; hypercorrection; rhotics; speech perception

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v4i1.4549

Copyright (c) 2019 Nancy Hall, Bianca Godinez, Megan Walsh, Irene Orellana, Coleen Villegas

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