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Accent modulates access to word meaning: Evidence for a speaker-model account of spoken word recognition

Cai, ZG; Gilbert, RA; Davis, MH; Gaskell, MG; Farrar, L; Adler, S; Rodd, JM; (2017) Accent modulates access to word meaning: Evidence for a speaker-model account of spoken word recognition. Cognitive Psychology , 98 pp. 73-101. 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2017.08.003. Green open access

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Abstract

Speech carries accent information relevant to determining the speaker's linguistic and social background. A series of web-based experiments demonstrate that accent cues can modulate access to word meaning. In Experiments 1-3, British participants were more likely to retrieve the American dominant meaning (e.g., hat meaning of "bonnet") in a word association task if they heard the words in an American than a British accent. In addition, results from a speeded semantic decision task (Experiment 4) and sentence comprehension task (Experiment 5) confirm that accent modulates on-line meaning retrieval such that comprehension of ambiguous words is easier when the relevant word meaning is dominant in the speaker's dialect. Critically, neutral-accent speech items, created by morphing British- and American-accented recordings, were interpreted in a similar way to accented words when embedded in a context of accented words (Experiment 2). This finding indicates that listeners do not use accent to guide meaning retrieval on a word-by-word basis; instead they use accent information to determine the dialectic identity of a speaker and then use their experience of that dialect to guide meaning access for all words spoken by that person. These results motivate a speaker-model account of spoken word recognition in which comprehenders determine key characteristics of their interlocutor and use this knowledge to guide word meaning access.

Type: Article
Title: Accent modulates access to word meaning: Evidence for a speaker-model account of spoken word recognition
Location: Netherlands
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2017.08.003
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cogpsych.2017.08.003
Language: English
Additional information: © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Accent, Dialect, Semantic ambiguity, Spoken word recognition
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1573608
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