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Journal Article

Perceptual Correlates of Turkish Word Stress and Their Contribution to Automatic Lexical Access: Evidence from Early ERP Components

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Zora, H., Heldner, M., & Schwarz, I.-C. (2016). Perceptual Correlates of Turkish Word Stress and Their Contribution to Automatic Lexical Access: Evidence from Early ERP Components. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10: 7. doi:10.3389/fnins.2016.00007.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-1B2C-9
Perceptual correlates of Turkish word stress and their contribution to lexical access were studied using the mismatch negativity (MMN) component in event-related potentials (ERPs). The MMN was expected to indicate if segmentally identical Turkish words were distinguished on the sole basis of prosodic features such as fundamental frequency (f0), spectral emphasis (SE), and duration. The salience of these features in lexical access was expected to be reflected in the amplitude of MMN responses. In a multi-deviant oddball paradigm, neural responses to changes in f0, SE, and duration individually, as well as to all three features combined, were recorded for words and pseudowords presented to 14 native speakers of Turkish. The word and pseudoword contrast was used to differentiate language-related effects from acoustic-change effects on the neural responses. First and in line with previous findings, the overall MMN was maximal over frontal and central scalp locations. Second, changes in prosodic features elicited neural responses both in words and pseudowords, confirming the brain's automatic response to any change in auditory input. However, there were processing differences between the prosodic features, most significantly in f0: While f0 manipulation elicited a slightly right-lateralized frontally-maximal MMN in words, it elicited a frontal P3a in pseudowords. Considering that P3a is associated with involuntary allocation of attention to salient changes, the manipulations of f0 in the absence of lexical processing lead to an intentional evaluation of pitch change. f0 is therefore claimed to be lexically specified in Turkish. Rather than combined features, individual prosodic features differentiate language-related effects from acoustic-change effects. The present study confirms that segmentally identical words can be distinguished on the basis of prosodic information alone, and establishes the salience of f0 in lexical access.