Event Abstract

The categorization of assimilated nasals – behavioural and neurophysiological correlates

  • 1 Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Germany

Comprehension of spoken words is an extremely robust process which operates in a wide variety of surroundings. It is the result of a very efficient, not yet well understood, decoding of the speech signal along the auditory pathway to associative structures in long term memory. At some level, sound must be mapped onto abstract and discrete phonological categories. According to the theory of underspecification (Lahiri & Reetz, 2002), coronal segments such as /n/ are not specified for place of articulation. Therefore, assimilation towards a labial place of articulation (as characteristic for /m/) does not constitute a mismatch for /n/ in the internal representation. We presented participants with isolated nasals, which had been extracted from natural productions of two sentences ((a) ‘Er schoss den Ball ins Tor.’; (b) ‘Er kam mit dem Ball heraus.’). Crucially, sentence-(a) nasals varied with respect to their place of articulation, while sentence (b) delivered natural /m/s. In some sentence-(a) productions, a regressive assimilation of the place of articulation had taken place, resulting in labial-tinted realizations of the critical nasals (assimilated /n/). In other productions, no such assimilation had taken place and the critical nasals were realized with an alveolar place of articulation (/n/s). Assignment of sentence-(a) nasals to condition /n/ or assimilated /n/ was based on three independent raters with perfect inter-rater reliabilty being a prerequisite for further usage. In behavioural experiments, participants forced-choice categorized the heard sounds (/n/s, assimilated /n/s, and /m/s), as either /n/ or /m/. Results show, that participants were able to correctly categorize the isolated nasals. The assimilated nasals were predominantly categorized as /m/. In an MEG experiment, we monitored the N100m component elicited by the same stimuli. In contrast to the behavioural data, this automatic brain response seems to reflect the underlying form of the assimilated nasal.

Conference: 10th International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience, Bodrum, Turkey, 1 Sep - 5 Sep, 2008.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Topic: Language

Citation: Bien H, Lagemann L, Dobel C and Zwitserlood P (2008). The categorization of assimilated nasals – behavioural and neurophysiological correlates. Conference Abstract: 10th International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/conf.neuro.09.2009.01.238

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Received: 09 Dec 2008; Published Online: 09 Dec 2008.

* Correspondence: Heidrun Bien, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, Germany, heidrun.bien@psy.uni-muenster.de

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