The study explores the role of stress and vowel harmony as cues for speech segmentation. Both in French and in Turkish stress is demarcative, typically falling on word-final syllables. Additionally, Turkish (but not French) has a regular front-back vowel harmony which dictates that all vowels within a word must be either front or back. French and Turkish participants performed a target detection task in which they had to spot nonsense words embedded in a longer auditory string. The results show that word-final stress can successfully signal an upcoming word boundary and is used for speech segmentation by speakers of both languages. In the Turkish group but not in the French group we also found a facilitatory effect of vowel disharmony. We conclude that both vowel harmony and stress can independently signal word boundaries and suggest that listeners can exploit these phonological regularities during speech segmentation.
© 2010 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York