Iris Hanique Mirjam Ernestus

The role of morphology in acoustic reduction

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This paper examines the role of morphological structure in the reduced pronunciation of morphologically complex words by discussing and re-analyzing data from the literature. Acoustic reduction refers to the phenomenon that, in spontaneous speech, phonemes may be shorter or absent. We review studies investigating effects of the repetition of a morpheme, of whether a segment plays a crucial role in the identification of its morpheme, and of a word's morphological decomposability. We conclude that these studies report either no effects of morphological structure or effects that are open to alternative interpretations. Our analysis also reveals the need for a uniform definition of morphological decomposability. Furthermore, we examine whether the reduction of segments in morphologically complex words correlates with these segments' contribution to the identification of the whole word, and discuss previous studies and new analyses supporting this hypothesis. We conclude that the data show no convincing evidence that morphological structure conditions reduction, which contrasts with the expectations of several models of speech production and of morphological processing (e.g., weaver++ and dual-route models). The data collected so far support psycholinguistic models which assume that all morphologically complex words are processed as complete units.


  • information load
  • lexical storage of morphologically complex words
  • morphological structure
  • pronunciation variation


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