Third International Conference on Spoken Language Processing (ICSLP 94)

Yokohama, Japan
September 18-22, 1994

Rhythmic Structure of Word Blends in English

Anne Cutler (1), Duncan Young (2)

(1) MPI for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
(2) Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Word blends combine fragments from two words, either in speech errors or when a new word is created. Previous work has demonstrated that in Japanese, such blends preserve moraic structure; in English they do not. A similar effect of moraic structure is observed in perceptual research on segmentation of continuous speech in Japanese; English listeners, by contrast, exploit stress units in segmentation, suggesting that a general rhythmic constraint may underlie both findings. The present study examined whether this parallel would also hold for word blends. In spontaneous English polysyllabic blends, the source words were significantly more likely to be split before a strong than before a weak (unstressed) syllable, ie. to be split at a stress unit boundary. In an experiment in which listeners were asked to identify the source words of blends, significantly more correct detections resulted when splits had been made before strong syllables. Word blending, like speech segmentation, appears to be constrained by language rhythm.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Cutler, Anne / Young, Duncan (1994): "Rhythmic structure of word blends in English", In ICSLP-1994, 1407-1410.