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Volume 127, Issue 1, January 2010
- SPEECH PERCEPTION 
127(2010); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.3268506View Description Hide Description
In unaccented contexts, formant frequency differences related to vowel reduction constitute a consistent cue to word stress in English, whereas in languages such as Spanish that have no systematic vowel reduction, stress perception is based on duration and intensity cues. This article examines the perception of word stress by speakers of Central Catalan, in which, due to its vowel reduction patterns, words either alternate stressed open vowels with unstressed mid-central vowels as in English or contain no vowel quality cues to stress, as in Spanish. Results show that Catalan listeners perceive stress based mainly on duration cues in both word types. Other cues pattern together with duration to make stress perception more robust. However, no single cue is absolutely necessary and trading effects compensate for a lack of differentiation in one dimension by changes in another dimension. In particular, speakers identify longer mid-central vowels as more stressed than shorter open vowels. These results and those obtained in other stress-accent languages provide cumulative evidence that word stress is perceived independently of pitch accents by relying on a set of cues with trading effects so that no single cue, including formant frequency differences related to vowel reduction, is absolutely necessary for stress perception.