Contextual confusability leads to targeted hyperarticulation

Esteban BuzUniversity of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA
T. Florian JaegerUniversity of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA
Michael K TanenhausUniversity of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA

Abstract

A central question in the field of language production is the extent to which the speech production system is organized for robust communication.One view holds that speakers' decision to produce more or less clear signals or to speak faster or slower is primarily or even exclusively driven by the demands inherent to production planning. The opposing view holds that these demands are balanced against the goal to be understood. We investigate the degree of hyperarticulation in the presence of easily confusable minimal pair neighbors (e.g., saying pill when bill is contextually co-present and thus a plausible alternative). We directly test whether production difficulty alone can explain such hyperarticulation. The results argue against production-centered accounts. We also investigate how specific hyperarticulation is to the segment that contrasts the target against the contextually plausible alternative.Our evidence comes from a novel web-based speech recording paradigm.

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