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Nakamura M.,Keio University | Nakamura M.,Shonan Institute of Technology | Kolinsky R.,Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique FNRS FRS FNRS | Kolinsky R.,Free University of Colombia
Language and Speech | Year: 2014

We explored the functional units of speech segmentation in Japanese using dichotic presentation and a detection task requiring no intentional sublexical analysis. Indeed, illusory perception of a target word might result from preattentive migration of phonemes, morae, or syllables from one ear to the other. In Experiment 1, Japanese listeners detected targets presented in hiragana and/or kanji. Phoneme migrations did occur, suggesting that orthography-independent sublexical constituents play some role in segmentation. However, syllable and especially mora migrations were more numerous. This pattern of results was not observed in French speakers (Experiment 2), suggesting that it reflects native segmentation in Japanese. To control for the intervention of kanji representations (many words are written in kanji, and one kanji often corresponds to one syllable), in Experiment 3, Japanese listeners were presented with target loanwords that can be written only in katakana. Again, phoneme migrations occurred, while the first mora and syllable led to similar rates of illusory percepts. No migration occurred for the second, “special” mora (/J/ or /N/), probably because this constitutes the latter part of a heavy syllable. Overall, these findings suggest that multiple units, such as morae, syllables, and even phonemes, function independently of orthographic knowledge in Japanese preattentive speech segmentation. © The Author(s) 2013.

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