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A phonetic explanation of pronunciation variant effects
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Effects of word-level phonetic variation on the recognition of words with different pronunciation variants (e.g., center produced with/(out) [t]) are investigated via the semantic- and pseudoword-priming paradigms. A bias favoring clearly articulated words with canonical variants ([nt]) is found. By reducing the bias, words with different variants show robust and equivalent lexical activation. The equivalence of different word forms highlights a snag for frequency-based theories of lexical access: How are words and word productions with vastly different frequencies recognized equally well by listeners? A process-based account is proposed, suggesting that careful speech induces bottom-up processing and casual speech induces top-down processing.
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