When phonological neighbors cooperate during spoken sentence processing


  • Dufour Sophie
  • Mirault Jonathan
  • Grainger Jonathan


  • Phonological neighbors
  • Sublexical facilitation
  • Lexical inhibition
  • Spoken word recognition

document type



The present study examined for the first time the impact of the presence of a phonological neighbor on word recognition when the target word and its neighbor co-occur in a spoken sentence. To do so, we developed a new task, the verb detection task, in which participants were instructed to respond as soon as they detected a verb in a sequence of words, thus allowing us to probe spoken word recognition processes in real time. We found that participants were faster at detecting a verb when it was phonologically related to the preceding noun than when it was phonologically unrelated. This effect was found with both correct sentences (Experiment 1) and with ungrammatical sequences of words (Experiment 2). The effect was also found in Experiment 3 where adjacent phonologically related words were included in the non-verb condition (i.e., word sequences not containing a verb), thus ruling out any strategic influences. These results suggest that activation persists across different words during spoken sentence processing such that processing of a word at position n+1 benefits from the sublexical phonology activated during processing of the word at position n. We discuss how different models of spoken word recognition might be able (or not) to account for these findings.

more information