Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

When Orthography Is Not Enough: The Effect of Lexical Stress in Lexical Decision

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

When Orthography Is Not Enough: The Effect of Lexical Stress in Lexical Decision

Article excerpt

Abstract Three lexical decision experiments were carried out in Italian, in order to verify if stress dominance (the most frequent stress type) and consistency (the proportion and number of existent words sharing orthographic ending and stress pattern) had an effect on polysyllabic word recognition. Two factors were manipulated: whether the target word carried stress on the penultimate (dominant; "graNIta," "seNIle"-slush, senile) or on the antepenultimate (non-dominant) syllable ("MISsile," "BIbita"-missile, drink), and whether the stress neighborhood was consistent (graNIta, MISsile) or inconsistent (seNIle, BIbita) with the word's stress pattern. In Experiment 1, words were mixed with nonwords sharing the word endings, which made words and nonwords more similar to each other. In Experiment 2, words and nonwords were presented in lists blocked for stress pattern. In Experiment 3, we used a new set of nonwords, which included endings with (stress) ambiguous neighborhoods and/or with a low number of neighbors, and which were overall less similar to words. In all three experiments, there was an advantage for words with penultimate (dominant) stress and no main effect of stress neighborhood. However, the dominant stress advantage decreased in Experiments 2 and 3. Finally, in Experiment 4, the same materials used in Experiment 1 were also used in a reading-aloud task, showing a significant consistency effect but no dominant stress advantage. The influence of stress information in Italian word recognition is discussed.

Keywords Lexical stress . Lexical decision . Stress dominance . Stress consistency

There has been increasing interest in the role that lexical stress plays in the pronunciation of a word from its orthography. The issue is particularly relevant for free-stress languages such as English or Italian, in which readers must assign stress before articulation may start (e.g., Colombo, 1992; Colombo, Deguchi, Boureux, 2014; Colombo & Zevin, 2009; Perry, Ziegler, & Zorzi, 2010; Sulpizio, Arduino, Paizi, & Burani, 2013; Sulpizio, Spinelli, & Burani, 2015). Important factors related to lexical stress that have been investigated, in tasks such as reading aloud and lexical decision, are: Dominance, the most frequent stress pattern in a language (Colombo & Zevin, 2009), also known as regularity or typicality (Arciuli & Cupples, 2006;Jouravlev&Lupker,2014; Kelly & Bock, 1988; Rastle & Coltheart, 2000; see below); orthographic correlates of stress (e.g., affixes; Rastle & Coltheart, 2000); stress neighborhood consistency (i.e., the more or less constant correspondence between spelling patterns and stress; Arciuli & Cupples, 2006; Burani & Arduino, 2004; Burani, Paizi, & Sulpizio, 2014; Colombo, 1992; Jouravlev & Lupker, 2014; Pagliuca & Monaghan, 2010; Paizi, Zoccolotti, &Burani,2011; Seva, Monaghan & Arciuli, 2009; Sulpizio & Colombo, 2013); and grammatical class (typical stress differs for nouns and verbs in English; Arciuli & Cupples, 2006; for different grammatical classes in Russian; Jouravlev & Lupker; 2014;forareviewofall the above issues, see Sulpizio, Burani, & Colombo, 2015). Among these factors, the most relevant for the present study is dominance.

The first studies focusing on the effect of the most frequent stress pattern in reading aloud showed that the emergence of this effect is influenced by word frequency. Both Monsell, Doyle, and Haggard (1989) and Brown, Lupker, and Colombo (1994) found evidence for a stress effect in naming English words and an interaction with frequency. The same pattern was also established in naming Italian words by Colombo (1992), who found that low-frequency words with the most frequent stress pattern (on the penultimate syllable of polysyllabic words, as in BbamBIno," child)showedanadvantage compared to low-frequency words with antepenultimate stress (e.g., BTAvolo," table), which is much less frequent (with a proportion of about 0. …

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