The role of perceptual salience during the segmentation of connected speech

J.M. Toro, N. Sebastián-Gallés, S.L. Mattys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Statistical learning allows listeners to track transitional probabilities among syllable sequences and use these probabilities for subsequent speech segmentation. Recent studies have shown that other sources of information, such as rhythmic cues, can modulate the dependencies extracted via statistical computation. In this study, we explored how syllables made salient by a pitch rise affect the segmentation of trisyllabic words from an artificial speech stream by native speakers of three different languages (Spanish, English, and French). Results showed that, whereas performance of French participants did not significantly vary across stress positions (likely due to language-specific rhythmic characteristics), the segmentation performance of Spanish and English listeners was unaltered when syllables in word-initial and word-final positions were salient, but it dropped to chance level when salience was on the medial syllable. We argue that pitch rise in word-medial syllables draws attentional resources away from word boundaries, thus decreasing segmentation effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)786-800
Number of pages15
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2009

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