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Phonological (un)certainty weights lexical activation

by   Laura Gwilliams, et al.
NYU college
Johns Hopkins University

Spoken word recognition involves at least two basic computations. First is matching acoustic input to phonological categories (e.g. /b/, /p/, /d/). Second is activating words consistent with those phonological categories. Here we test the hypothesis that the listener's probability distribution over lexical items is weighted by the outcome of both computations: uncertainty about phonological discretisation and the frequency of the selected word(s). To test this, we record neural responses in auditory cortex using magnetoencephalography, and model this activity as a function of the size and relative activation of lexical candidates. Our findings indicate that towards the beginning of a word, the processing system indeed weights lexical candidates by both phonological certainty and lexical frequency; however, later into the word, activation is weighted by frequency alone.


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