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Listeners can use coarticulation cues to predict an upcoming novel word


During lexical access, listeners turn unfolding phonetic input into words. We tested how participants interpret words that aren't in their lexicon, either due to their coarticulation cues or because they label a novel object. In a 2-picture Visual World study, 57 adults saw a familiar object and an unfamiliar object, while hearing sentences directing their gaze to the target in 3 conditions: with a familiar word (“crib”), a novel word (“crig”), or a familiar word with coarticulation cueing a novel word (“cri(g)b”). When coarticulation cues matched the novel word (“cri(g)b”), participants looked more at the unfamiliar object than when the cues matched the familiar word, suggesting lexical competition can include a novel word under appropriate circumstances. When hearing a novel word (e.g. “crig”), participants showed two patterns: Roughly half looked more at the unfamiliar object, as expected, while the rest surprisingly looked more at the familiar object. We discuss the interaction of mutual exclusivity, phonetic similarity, and coarticulation cues in driving lexical access.

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