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An electrophysiological response to different pitch contours in words

Friedrich, Claudia K.CA; Alter, Kai; Kotz, Sonja A.

Cognitive Neuroscience And Neuropsychology
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A spoken word with more than one syllable contains a specific stress pattern found to be processed during spoken word recognition. The present study investigated the word's pitch contour as a single auditory parameter that marks stress. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded while subjects made decisions to artificially pitch manipulated words. ERPs revealed that pitch contours are discriminated already within the first syllable of a word. Furthermore, behavioral responses for words with incorrect pitch contours were longer than for words with correct pitch contours. The results suggest that the pitch contour is an auditory feature of the spoken word that a listener automatically processes during spoken word recognition.

Max Planck Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Stephanstrasse 1a, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

CACorresponding Author

Received 17 July 2001; accepted 7 August 2001

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.