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2020 | 30 | 2 | 113-126

Article title

The interplay of stress saliency and word beginning saliency: an experimental study


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Languages of publication



There is a robust amount of evidence (mostly from English) suggesting that, while listening to speech, the initial part of words is scrutinised with more attention. Similarly, data suggests that stressed syllables are processed with more precision than unstressed syllables. How do these two kinds of saliencies interact? In this experimental study, the issue was investigated in a group of Italian speakers. Participants were presented with minimal pairs of nonwords differing in one individual phoneme (and specifically one trait, voicing). Nonwords were created as to contain phonological clusters in either an initial or medial position, and, similarly, stress was placed in either initial or medial position. Results show that when the clusters were in word medial position, there was a large effect of stress, with stressed syllables being recognised with greater accuracy. When the clusters were in initial position, instead, accuracy was at an intermediate level and we did not observe any effect of stress. The result is discussed in relation to previous literature addressing these phenomena in English.


  • Faculty of Arts, Charles University
  • School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading


Document Type

Publication order reference


YADDA identifier

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