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Mitterer, Holger; Reinisch, Eva; McQueen, James M. (2018): Allophones, not phonemes in spoken-word recognition. In: Journal of Memory and Language, Vol. 98: pp. 77-92
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What are the phonological representations that listeners use to map information about the segmental content of speech onto the mental lexicon during spoken-word recognition? Recent evidence from perceptual-learning paradigms seems to support (context-dependent) allophones as the basic representational units in spoken-word recognition. But recent evidence from a selective-adaptation paradigm seems to suggest that context-independent phonemes also play a role. We present three experiments using selective adaptation that constitute strong tests of these representational hypotheses. In Experiment 1, we tested generalization of selective adaptation using different allophones of Dutch /r/ and /l/-a case where generalization has not been found with perceptual learning. In Experiments 2 and 3, we tested generalization of selective adaptation using German back fricatives in which allophonic and phonemic identity were varied orthogonally. In all three experiments, selective adaptation was observed only if adaptors and test stimuli shared allophones. Phonemic identity, in contrast, was neither necessary nor sufficient for generalization of selective adaptation to occur. These findings and other recent data using the perceptual-learning paradigm suggest that pre-lexical processing during spoken-word recognition is based on allophones, and not on context-independent phonemes.